THE BLOG
06/17/2014 06:07 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2014

How to Annoy Your Audience: Tips for Public Speakers

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I recently attended a Saturday morning business meeting. I went to the meeting (did I mention it was a Saturday morning?) for the sole purpose of supporting the speaker whom I met at a past conference.

Seemed harmless enough!

The presentation started off in a very dynamic way as the speaker began asking questions of the audience and creating interest in the topic. Extensive time was spent discussing clients the speaker has helped and the value delivered. Clients of the speaker were brought to the event to help promote the speaker's coaching program. The last 20 minutes of the presentation were spent handing out an application for the coaching program and explaining how to fill it out.

None! That was the amount of value I got from the presentation. I left the meeting feeling a bit embarrassed and annoyed. When will I get that Saturday morning back? Have you ever felt like this when you've left a presentation? Did it discourage you from attending future presentations for fear of another infomercial?

I see this scarcity mindset all the time with financial advisors that are looking to deliver seminars and "network" when in essence they're looking to simply set an appointment to explain "the value of their work." It's no wonder business owners and service providers get such a bad rap.

The best business people offer value in everything they do. Heck, if you attend a seminar and get a ton of ideas on how to solve a problem, aren't you more apt to hire the expert delivering the seminar? Become their client? Buy their book? Promote their services? Refer them business?

Here's how NOT to annoy your audience.

Deliver great content at all times.

If you're delivering a program called "How to Manage Your Finances," make sure you give actionable approaches about how to manage your finances. Don't just talk about how important it is to do so and all of your success in helping people. Take a HOW-TO approach (as in, how to do it) rather than a WHAT approach (what you should do is manage your finances and I can help you). See the difference? Learn what your audience would value most and give them what they came for. Invite them to do business with you if they think you could be of help to them given your smarts, approach, philosophies, and accomplishments. And leave it at that! Leave the applications and fact finders at the office. Deliver a quality product and see what happens!

Become a Great Speaker

That is, if you're not already! If you are, great! If not, no worries. You don't need to be Zig Ziglar to deliver a great seminar. But it helps! Watch great speakers online (including Zig) and see what they do and don't do. But watching other presenters isn't enough. The best way to improve your speaking skills is to hire a coach, take a class, or join a Toastmasters club where you can find your technique, confidence, and get plenty of practice. You'll learn how to engage an audience, tell a story, infuse energy, create an upbeat rhythm, use humor, and deliver a powerful call to action. Practice is great but still isn't enough when it comes to improving your speaking skills. You need to be observed by an audience willing to share honest feedback about what you're good and not so good at. And then you get to practice and apply the advice. Remember, the more comfortable you are as a speaker, the more comfortable your audience will be with you!

Collect Stories

We all have them! Start a file where you can list stories and situations you've experienced by name. Then when you're planning for your presentation, you can decide which stories you want to deliver. You may not want to include that one from your 8-year-old's birthday party. But you do want to include the one where your client listened to your advice and had the necessary coverage to protect his family when the roof caved in, the car crashed, grandpa passed away, and the market tanked. Give your stories (and your growing file) some serious thought and plan to tell them -- and tell them well. People remember stories provided they're told well and have an important and relevant point. Sometimes, I open my presentation with a story. I just jump right into it! It gets the audience engaged immediately. Did you notice how I started this blog?

Learn About Your Audience

Remember, your presentation is never about you. Naturally, your stories and experiences can be about you, but your points must always relate to your audience. Think audience first! If you're always focused on your audience, your points and stories will always be on the mark. How can you learn about your audience? Simply ask them great questions! Which means you must reach out to them (or a sampling of them) personally to learn about their successes, needs, and challenges. Have questions prepared and ask the same questions of everyone. The answers to your questions will help you develop your content, approaches, and stories. And really, what's better than that?

Lessons worth being annoyed about on a Saturday morning!