If you have ever suffered through a presentation where the presenter beat a point to death, you’re going to love this one! First, let me define the idiom, “beat a point to death.” A speaker is guilty of beating a point to death if they go into unnecessarily granular detail or wonder off in several different directions, torturing their audience and making them mentally tap out. Somehow, we never forget what being in that audience feels like but develop amnesia when we’re the speaker.
You don’t want to be chairman of the ‘bored’! The best presenters know that their audiences don’t care about their messages half as much as the speaker would like to think they do. The truth is, every time you speak, you are fully engaged in a battle for your audience’s attention. Here’s the thing . . . your audience will not wave a red flag to tell you that you’ve lost their attention. How many times have you been in an audience and someone raised their hand and said to the speaker, “Excuse me, what the hell are you talking about?” Although that would be hilarious, I’m betting it’s never happened to you. This means it’s up to you, the speaker, to gauge your audience’s level of engagement in the moment.
Extending your point too long is like nodding off to sleep while you’re at the wheel. As you start to drift outside the lane of audience interest, you unknowingly give your audience the green light to STOP listening and mentally exit the venue. Can you really blame them for jumping out of the car before your presentation careens off a cliff? So the question is, how can you avoid beating a point to death and losing your audience?
Before the curtain rises, the first thing you should do is understand your audience’s education level. How much do they already know about your topic? This will help you determine the appropriate starting point for introducing your content.
Here are three additional tips that will help your points cheat death:
Invite them to talk back to you
Directly engage your audience. Ask them to “tell me what you heard” or ask them questions like “what were your aha moments,” or “is this clicking for you?” Once they’ve responded, you can assess how your content is resonating because you asked. I know. Sheer genius.
Read their body language
Are their heads nodding? Is their posture erect? Are they making good eye contact? Body language is a form of feedback. It’s telling you something! Read and react.
Use conversations to practice
Conversations and presentations are kissing cousins. Conversations are the next best thing for gauging people’s tolerances. Get a feel for how much people can absorb before they either need to respond or stop listening.
After being on my soapbox here about hittin’ and quittin’ your point, I was inspired to look up the meaning of the word point. There were 91! Talk about irony.
Dez Thornton is a communications coach who helps you say the right words in the right way when they matter most! For more information, see www.dezthornton.com