Don’t just tell, communicate with your audience

By Michelle Warren

Have you witnessed a powerful keynote presentation recently? During these staples of the business scene in the IT industry, senior level executives deliver informative presentations to audiences ranging in size and background: from audiences of 20 senior level executives to 2,000-plus people of mixed backgrounds, including sales, marketing, technical junior and senior level professionals. Meeting the needs of the audience, while delivering and communicating a powerful message, can seem daunting.

Michelle Warren, President, MW Research & Consulting

And yet, many would argue that the ability to communicate effectively is the true sign of being an influential leader. It can, in some cases, make your career soar.“Communicating effectively” is more than just providing information. Being able to connect with audience members on a level that makes them think and consider your message, perhaps incorporating it into their lives, and committing to your message, are examples of audience connection. Your goal:  inspire a response among your audience.Consider a Hewlett-Packard vice-president who wants to inspire stronger engagement among his or her reseller partners. Consider a Cisco executive who wants to introduce a new approach to delivering technical solutions. In these examples, how can they help invoke interest and commitment among their audience members?

1. Involve

Rather than present your information from your company’s sole perspective, involve your audience. Perhaps some were with you when you started your journey? “Some of you were with HP when we started the shift towards the Adaptive Enterprise….” Perhaps some were not? “I wish you could have been with us when we moved towards the Adaptive Enterprise, because we certainly learned a lot about corporate enterprise demands…”

By acknowledging their presence and the relationship between your organizations, you will invite them into the conversation, regardless of the audience size.

2. Interest

Address the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor. Why is your audience present, aside from responding to your invitation? What are they looking to gain by investing their time? Perhaps enhanced market understanding, deeper understanding of your technology roadmap, or new business options? Identify their interests and provide answers in your presentation.

For example, “Cisco’s Smart + Connected Cities initiative gives our partners an opportunity to enter the education and health care industries on long-term engagements…”

“Long-term engagements” means new business, reoccuring revenues, and money! Peak their interest on an intellectual level, but don’t forget their human side. Which leads into…

3. Senses

Appealing to your audience’s senses can get overlooked when we design presentations. Or is it? Consider our five senses: taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound. While your presentation might not address the senses of taste and smell, you can ensure that your audio system works, that sightlines are effective (to see you or to see your slide deck.) As for touch, this can be challenging to address in a presentation format, but offering a showcase of products following your speech is one option.

4. Inspire

And finally, inspire your audience to take action. Be prepared to support and connect with your audience members. I saw a wonderful example of this at a recent Cisco Canada event. CEO Nitin Kawale spoke to an audience of about 30 media and business partners, and then invited questions. One question from a business partner invoked the interest of Cisco Canada executives. The response was immediate, as company representatives approached her following the presentation.

The content of his presentation invoked a verbal response from his business partner, and his team was on hand to follow up and ensure continual communication between the two organizations.

By carefully crafting your presentation, you can connect with your audience and ensure a valuable experience. Remember the four keys: Involve Interest, Senses, and Inspire.

Michelle Warren is president of MW Research & Consulting in Toronto. She is a writer, researcher, consultant, coach and trainer with a strong IT industry background.


Michelle Warren
Michelle Warren
Michelle Warren helps her clients (executives, entrepreneurs, and individuals) improve their performance and productivity, communicate more effectively, and help others achieve success. She couples her nine years experience coaching and training executives with almost 20 years of corporate experience in the IT industry. Michelle also teaches communication and management courses at Sheridan College, and advises corporations on best IT-data management practices through her research firm, MW Research & Consulting.

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