Public Speaking Tip: Don’t Speak to a Demographic, Speak to a Person

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In preparation for writing a book about the art and craft of public speaking, I’ve been reading some great books on the subject. It’s always interesting to see where and how I differ or concur with my colleagues when it comes to public speaking best practices.

I nodded my head in vehement business-woman-speakingagreement while reading Chris Anderson’s terrific book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, when I came across the following nugget:  Elizabeth Gilbert, the best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love– who is herself a talented speaker—believes that you should plan your talk not for a general demographic of people, but for an audience of one.  She suggests that you prepare your talk by imagining you’re going to give it to a very specific person, preferably someone you know and like—someone who is curious, bright, engaged. Choose that ideal listener, and then create a talk that, as she puts it, “would blow their mind, or move them, or fascinate them, or delight them.”

The key is to be really specific about that person, that target audience member of one.  The more you can see them in your mind’s eye, the more you will put together a presentation that is of service and relevance to them—and ultimately to the larger audience.

This concept is directly in alignment with my beliefs around how to begin fleshing out a presentation. Whenever I am sitting with a new client, beginning to work on building a presentation, my first question is “Who will you be speaking to?”  As presenters, we are, after all, in service to our audience. The more who know who we are speaking to—and what their needs, their pain, or their problems might be—the more we can be of use to that audience.

Pinpointing a person who represents the audience you’ll be speaking to, and building your presentation in service to that audience of one will ultimately serve the audience as a whole. And it will, in addition, encourage in you a greater warmth, heart, humanity and willingness to connect– which will take your presentation to new levels of impact and influence.