I've been involved in helping others develop presentations for several years now. One thing I see over and over is the reluctance from presenters to follow one simple rule. One that would completely transform their presentation from an ineffective data dump into one that could make a meaningful and valuable impact on all involved.
That one rule is...
The "Golden Rule." It basically says: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Simple enough, but its power is so underestimated.
Why is it so important for a presentation? Keep reading.
Some version of this simple but powerful rule can be found in virtually every culture and religion throughout history. It’s referenced in philosophy, psychology, and business literature as a powerful strategy for life, happiness, and success. And it certainly applies to effective communication with others.
Often times it’s stated simply as “Put yourself in another’s shoes,” which is something you must do in order to follow the Golden Rule. Following it afterward is implied.
Covey says it has to come first.
Stephen Covey refers to it in his writings. Habit 5 in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People relates to it stating “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Habit 5 basically says that you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, empathize with their concerns and ideas, and understand where they are coming from in order to be able to communicate to them effectively.
Dale Carnegie calls it a formula.
Dale Carnegie speaks of it as “A formula that will work wonders for you,” in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Principle 8 says “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” Carnegie is so emphatic about this he ends the chapter like this:
“If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing – an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person’s point of view, and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own – if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the stepping-stones of your career.”
What about in a presentation?
Every book on public speaking teaches the presenter to “Know Your Audience!” Why is that? So you can use the Golden Rule on them. Because to create a successful presentation, you need to understand why the audience would want to listen to you in the first place. To do that, you have to put yourself in their shoes so you can start to understand their pain, needs, challenges, and desires.
Then you can set out to “do unto them” and satisfy those needs, solve those problems, counter those objections, and ease that suffering through your information, insights and message.
It takes a little work.
The challenge is that in order to follow the golden rule, you have to put a little effort into it. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to empathize where they are coming from. That takes some thought. Most of us tend to be consumed with our own wants and needs to a certain degree, but that’s not a recipe for success in any facet of living.
If we do that as presenters, we’ll tend to prepare for a presentation by asking, “What do I know about the subject and how can I communicate it?” The result is usually a data dump of the catalog of our knowledge.
That will rarely be effective because no one really just wants information, they want what that information can do for them.
To give that to them, we have to put ourselves in their shoes and then apply the Golden Rule.
How can you apply this to your presentation?
A starting point for applying the golden rule and improving your presentations would be to simply put yourself in the audience of your own presentation. To ask questions like these:
If I were a member of my audience…
- Why would I care about this topic?
- Why would I need this information?
- What pain would I like to ease or avoid?
- What pleasure or solution would I like to gain?
- How would I like the information presented?
- How long before I would need to go to the restroom?
This may take a little more time and effort than simply brainstorming all you know about a topic and creating an outline…
The good news is...
If you do take the time and effort involved in applying the Golden Rule, you’ll find it will completely focus the needle of your compass in the right direction and improve all facets of your presentations.
It will help you better connect with your audience, more clearly define the objective of your presentation, and more easily identify what to include and what to exclude.
It will even help you design more engaging and effective presentation slides, which is something I cover in more detail in my online course Power in your Point. Once you start putting yourself in your audience's shoes, you'll more easily see how to use your slides for impact.
So, if I were in your shoes, I would be wanting a coffee or tea about now. So I will do unto you and say….
Have Your First Lesson on Me!
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