I looked up at the audience to see them on their phones or staring at the ceiling and one of them doing some emails. They were bored. I had lost them.
I knew why.
I was reading them a list of bullet points from a screen. I hadn’t put the effort into the one thing I always put effort into, because, I was supply teaching, standing in for someone else.
I had fallen into the biggest trap by mistake. I had forgotten the golden rule about engaging the audience.
Content FIRST. Platform second.
When it comes to marketing or speaking, or spreading a message to anyone, or any form of communication, it’s easy to become obsessed with the platform.
You feel the pressure of standing on the stage, or you get thinking about which platforms people will see your ad on… but it’s the CONTENT that comes first.
Sounds obvious right? well, It’s not! Because it even took broadcast media quite a while to suss it out too.
About fifteen years ago I was in the depths of working in Radio. Radio: the traditional broadcast medium where we put content together, blasted it out through speakers and people listened – there was no other choice. Audience engagement was pretty easy.
At the time we were starting to rethink how Radio was working. Twitter and Facebook were starting to grow, and we were aware that youtube was starting to be a place people went for information. We sat in a room and decided that it had to evolve and we came up with the idea that we should put the brand of the Radio Station in the middle, and then engage with our audience on as many platforms as possible.
This approach worked. This approach stuck.
So if you are ever sat in a meeting where someone says “we just need to do some facebook ads” or “we should get some videos on youtube” they are platform gazing, rather than focusing on the content.
For content to engage with your audience you need to go through the following 3 steps:
1) What is your point? (Also, what do you want to get out of it?)
2) What do you want your audience to remember, and feel?
3) Who are you talking to? Where are they, and what are they needing?
It is only when you’re at that third point do you begin to work out what platform will work best and how you tweak it to the platform.
My mistake was to try and deliver someone else’s content without thinking “what is MY point?” or what did I want them to remember? I was just worried that the powerpoint slides made sense. And because of that – I lost the audience.
If you are communicating in any way: Content First, Platform Second.
Ever had that feeling that your point is just not being heard?
Once a week Mr.C, the kids and I go for “Family Breakfast”. This week my son needed to do his maths homework while we were waiting for food to arrive. His head was in maths when my husband said: “Mate, we have got to sort out your handwriting”.
(For context – his teachers over the last year or so have said this is something he could do with working on)
The 11-year-old immediately went on the defensive and the usual bickering then ensued.
The outcome? Our son won’t be changing his handwriting any time soon. My husband is frustrated that yet again he’s not been heard. And in a few weeks time, the same thing will happen again. In short – no one benefits and nothing changes.
Getting someone to buy into your point is something we have to do every day, whether you are on air, on screen, on stage, in a meeting, or just trying to get the other half to empty the bins.
And this one technique never fails: start by acknowledging your audience’s reality.
You know yourself that no one is going to change your mind about anything if they start talking to you while your head is in something else. And if you’re anything like me, my head is constantly in something.
Acknowledging the reality of the person you’re talking to allows their brain to come to you before you start getting into what it is you want to ask of them.
So if my husband had taken this tack:
“Is that your maths homework? How are you getting on with it?”
He would have engaged our son immediately. And after listening he may have been able to weave the conversation to something like:
“You know your teachers were talking about you improving your handwriting? Have you been working on it at all?”
“It’s just I can’t help but notice that you’re still struggling to get it neat – is there anything we can do to help it get better?”
Yes, it takes a little longer, but it has great results.
I had a builder that wasn’t answering my calls once, we had discovered a leak as a result of some work he had done, and I needed it fixing. He wasn’t returning my calls, and then I left this message:
“Hi. I know you’re likely to be super busy and the last thing you want is this old work to come back to haunt you, so if you could give me a call we can get it off your plate and out your hair as soon as possible”
He called me before the end of the day.
On stage you often see comedians start their sets by commenting on the location, whether that be the room itself or whether that be the town.
You can do the same in your presentation with something called a “Yes Set”. This is a simple technique that encourages the audience to agree with you too.
“I know you want to get home on time today”
Audience brain: “yes”
“And that you have seen a lot of people today”
Audience brain: “yes”
“So let me get straight to the point…”
Audience brain “yes”
The challenge is that you can’t see what your audience is doing, so really you are guessing as to their reality at the moment they are listening!
Sometimes it’s safe to assume. Often acknowledging your listeners’ reality is in capturing the time of day and the sense of the day. Saying hello and letting them know where they are, also acknowledges that that is their reality (eg “this is station FM / the pod podcast”).
Taking the time to introduce a topic with the listener experience is a clear way to ensure you are acknowledging their reality.
Rather than saying “There is a survey this morning that says meat is bad for you, so we have an expert here to talk about the challenge of getting people to stop eating it”
You might say “Imagine you are happily tucking into your favorite food, for someone to tell you that it’s significantly worse for you – would that stop you from eating it?”