You Ask, I Answer: Customizing Speaking Presentations?

Cathy asks, So you’re a subject matter expert, but your audiences (i.e. seniority, industries, geography) from gig to gig differ. How do you go about customizing presentations while maintaining your core message?

This one is straightforward: the more Q&A you include, the more every presentation is customized to what that audience wants to hear. If you leave no time or five minutes for Q&A, then anyone sitting in that audience who has heard your canned talk before will know it’s canned.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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In today’s episode Kathy asks, so your subject matter expert by your audience’s seniority and industry, geography from gig different from gig to gig differ, how do you go about customizing presentations will maintain your core message.

So this one’s pretty straightforward.

customizing a presentation is something that you do to provide value to the audience, right? number one rule of presentations, is an old sales guy told me this back in the early part of the last decade, now the radio in their customers head is permanently tuned to one station wi I FM, what’s in it for me? So depending on the audience, what’s in it for them, if you’re doing a talk on, say, digital photography, what’s in it for an audience of artists who What’s in it for an audience of plumbers? What’s in it for an audience of industrial concrete specialists? If you don’t know the answer, you probably shouldn’t be on stage.

Right? Because the audience cares very much about what’s in it for them.

So a big part of customizing presentation is understanding what the audience is therefore, what do they want? And that may mean you have to do a hefty amount of research on their industry to ask, what are the problems they face and how does what I’m about to talk about apply to them.

I did a talk on truck driving, recruiting a little while back and I had to do an actual research project to understand the needs of what it is that recruiters are trying to do.

When I did a healthcare talk.

Okay, what are the data challenges that AI is helping address in healthcare? So you’re going to spend a lot of time you should be spending a lot of time researching the audience, the industry, the challenges that they have understand some of the language, understanding some of the culture, all these things go into speaking, it’s one of the reasons why public speakers good ones cost so much, because it’s not the hour that you spend on stage.

It’s the 40 6080 hours you spend up front and doing the research when I was talking, I did a keynote in Poland.

I spent three weeks spending a whole lot of time with Duolingo and other things just to get basic ability to you know, basic customer mannerisms and, and phrases in Polish so that again, I could I speak Polish fluently? Absolutely not.

Could I at least do basic hellos, goodbyes and show that I had some level of awareness of the culture? Yes.

I absolutely spent time it was presentation on AI.

Now what are the major challenges that that particular part of Poland was facing? It wasn’t even all of Poland It was a particular section called Pomerania? What were the challenges that They were having their big challenges was business development trying to attract more businesses to the region.

So we talked about ways to do that.

Looking at influencers, looking how to do network graphing and natural language processing in Polish, because polish is a Slavic language with a Western language character set.

So that presents some real interesting challenges for people who are building natural language models.

So you spend a lot of time doing research upfront to figure out what is it that this audience desperately needs to hear? And how did the core techniques or the ideas apply to them? You got to put yourself in the audience’s seat.

What’s in it for me when they’re on stage, when they’re in the audience listening to you whether it’s in a room or on a virtual connection? That person is going what’s in this for me, what am I going to get out of this? Another thing that is I think, so powerful and so underrated is q&a.

The more q&a you will Include, the more every presentation is customized to exactly that specific audience because you can give some ideas and people will say, Well, I don’t understand how this idea applies to me.

And that’s when, as my friend, Gary Vaynerchuk says, that’s when you separate the adults from the children.

Because if you are up there giving a canned talk, you know, you’re on the 15 Minute Webinar, it’s pre recorded, just go you push the play button, and then you’re done.

You’ve given no time to the audience for q&a, and they don’t necessarily have to know how to apply your message, especially if your message is in any way shape, or form.

even slightly technical, or even slightly detailed in terms of techniques.

Now, if it’s just your motivational stories, like hey, I bicycle to the North Pole and what a great challenge it was though, there’s fewer questions the audience is going to have about that type of talk but if you are doing any kind of Typical marketing or business talk, there should be q&a if there isn’t.

You might not have done such a good job because people don’t know how to ask more questions to apply what you said to them.

I personally see it as a failure of mine If I give a talk and there isn’t q&a if there aren’t a whole bunch of hands up, or a little hand blinking things in zoom when I’ve talked, because it means that I probably went way over people’s heads, and they’re like, I don’t get it.

So q&a.

What’s the right balance? I would say up anywhere from a third to a half of the time has been allotted for q&a.

So deliver the the big idea in 20 minutes, right, if you can deliver the big idea in 20 minutes.

This, by the way, actually really helps with what my friend Tamsin Webster calls fire hosing, we just pour a whole bunch of data on someone’s head.

Because in 20 minutes, you really only have time for one big idea or one big concept.

And then the remaining 2025 3540 minutes left for QA.

People can ask how do I do this? How do I apply this? What’s in this for me? Where do I find this? Do you know people who can help me with this all the questions that are valued race based questions, that’s when the audience is going to come out and say, I need to know how to do this.

I need to know how to implement this.

And when you do q&a, that presentation is as a whole, completely unique, because yes, you’ll always get the few of the same questions.

And maybe if you keep getting those questions, it’s a sign that your talk needs to be adapted to answer those questions implicitly.

After that, every talk is custom to the people who are in that room.

It’s not even what industry you’re in.

It’s just the people who are in that room that day that had those questions that you were able to answered, leave a ton of time for q&a.

Leave a ton of time for it.

Let people ask their questions, and you will never have trouble customizing.

If anything, you’ll have the opposite problem, you will you the audience may go down some rabbit holes that you may or may not want to go down because it just is not relevant.

I remember giving a talk on applications of AI for marketing.

And there were a few questions on, you know, the the implications of, you know, political and legal and societal context.

And I answered them at a surface level, but like, Look, that’s not necessarily the focus of this presentation.

The focus was on the applications for marketing.

Yes, absolutely.

There are legal and moral implications.

But that’s a separate talk.

That’s a separate talk entirely.

Sometimes.

That’s okay.

If the audience’s like, it’s one Ask the question, everybody leans forward like, oh, okay, you know, if you’re on zoom and suddenly, like every head comes up and everyone’s watching all sudden, like, okay, we’re gonna spend some time on this.

But again, that’s a sign of a really engaged, customized talk that everyone is paying attention rapidly to figure out what it is you’re about to say.

So customization of the talk adapter ideas, by spending a crap ton of time upfront doing the research that you need to do to make a really good custom talk for that audience.

And then let the q&a run as long as you have the ability to do so leave a ton of time for it, so that you can demonstrate your actual subject matter expertise by answering quiz specific questions people have.

Speaking of which, if you have questions about this video, leave in the comments box below.

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I’ll talk to you soon.

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