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Building Chemistry with your Audience

Most people worry about the information that they need to convey to their audience in a presentation. They turn presentations into an opportunity to transfer data. But that's the functional part of giving presentations. To be honest, focusing less on transferring information and more onto the desired outcome should put the attention on to the most important people - the audience.

Presentations are about impact. Not about transfer of data. If you want to impact the audience, you have to make them think, feel and do something. Think. Feel. Do. You see, it's not even about you.

When I teach presentation skills, I explain this by telling a story. By the end of the story, most people are listening very differently - because this story affects them deeply. I tell them about how someone I know died in 9/11 and what the loss meant to me. This story really creates a chemical response in my audience. The listener produces oxytocin. We bond through that story. It's a true story, and I feel it every time I tell it, but it's fascinating to see a room full of people lean in, and empathise with me.

You can have a variety of impacts on your audience. If you wish your audience to grab their attention you can produce cortisol in them with your presentation. If you want them to remember something deeply, then it's best to produce dopamine. Presentations aren't about you. They are about the audience.

Design your presentations around them. It takes a lot of pressure off you.

We can produce these chemicals through the stories we tell - and the stories we tell are essential to good presentations. Again, if you think your job is to transfer data, you have mistaken yourself and your audience for a computer.

Your job is to tell stories that change the listener. That's your focus. Build stories around the facts you want to communicate - it will be far more impactful than a crappy Powerpoint presentation.

Mark Westbrook - Public Speaking Coach Glasgow

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