“Why are you all here?”
At Pink Elephant Communications, we ask our clients this simple question in the morning:
The answers vary:
“To learn more about being a confident presenter”
“To stop swaying from side to side like a wobbling Weeble”.
We repeat the question:
“Why are you all here?”
When we reveal our answer, there’s an awkward silence:
“You’re all here to pay our salaries and our mortgage”.
It’s the first rule of a presentation and we’ve deliberately broken it first thing in the morning.
It demonstrates the awkwardness borne from failing to answer the simplest of questions:
“What’s in it for the audience?”
The writers, the producers and the broadcasters of Friends knew what its audience wanted in the opening 30 seconds.
They wanted to be instantly transported into Monica and Rachel’s apartment.
Or Central Perk, in the middle of a conversation.
They wanted to be instantly entertained – with a point of interest such as Ross’s failed marriage or Joey’s latest audition.
And they wanted all of this before the theme tune even started.
It was a formula that worked perfectly.
Instead of counting the seconds until I’ll be there for You was over, we spent the first half of it laughing about the previous gag.
Then the second half stomping the floor to the sound of the Rembrants’ drums.
People sometimes ask me what’s the best presentation I’ve ever seen.
I’ve taken part in a number of pitching competitions.
I’ve had the honour of sharing an audience with some of Scotland’s most distinguished presenters.
Simply put, the best of them all lasted just 10 seconds:
“Does anybody drive a car or know anybody that drives a car?”
(Every hand goes up).
“Would you or your friends like to save up to £300 on your MOT and service?”
“Come and see me afterwards”.
Those who followed talked about IPOs, cash flow, exit strategies and in one case, EBITDA.
But it was this simple 10-second ‘what’s in it for the audience?’, right at the beginning, that stuck.
Before he even introduced himself.
Contrast that with the following:
“Thanks everyone for coming today. First of all I’d like to thank our partners for putting on such a great occasion”.
“I know you’ve all worked hard to make tonight a possibility and it’s a testament to the values of the organisation that today has come off…”
“Thanks very much for giving up your time today. I just want to start with a brief history of the organisation…”
“I just want to say before I start that I’m not really used to doing these kinds of things. I think some of this will be useful but if it’s not relevant then I can only apologise – I’ll be finished in a few minutes anyway…”
If you’re in the audience, you’re already thinking about what you’re doing at the weekend, about your work, or about anything else.
If it was an episode of Friends, you’d have changed the channel.
How about this instead?
“Does anybody drive a car or know anybody that drives a car?”…
Three simple questions to ask before you start writing your presentation:
What do I want to say?
Who is my audience?
So how will I put it?
If you ask yourself these three questions, the ‘what’s in it for the audience?’ should be obvious.
It should make its way right to the top of the presentation.
We’ve all sat through presentations that we feel have missed the mark.
But as an audience, we’re often unable to analyse why.
Was it information overload?
Was it aimed at the wrong audience?
Was it because of the stumbles and pauses?
Normally it’s because your presenter has failed to ask that very basic question:
“What’s in it for me?”
Getting that right and putting it right to the start forces the audience to engage.
Because it’s important to them and can make a difference to their lives.
And as a result, it’s even more interesting than watching Friends…
Written by Andrew McFarlan, the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications. You can view his full profile here.
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