Audience brains need structure when you speak in public
What’s one thing that your audience really needs from you when you speak in public? A structure. It’s so important to give them a clear order for your content.
Our brains are pattern-making machines. We’re constantly scanning new information for patterns which we can relate to our current knowledge base; we subconsciously try to create a logic by comparing and sorting information. If there’s no logic, we’ll be unhappy, even though we may not consciously know why. (Of course, if the presentation we’ve just sat through was obviously a rambling mess, we’ll know why we’re unhappy and dissatisfied only too well!)
This is, by the way, one more good reason not to ‘wing’ your speech; people who think they can do this are usually kidding themselves.
The more I coach, present and watch other speakers, the more crucial I know a structure is. So what does it give our audience?
- Clarity – when they know where we’re going, and where we are during our talk, they can relax and not have to work so hard
- Retention – you’re giving them a chance to remember, and retain long-term, your expertise
All audiences are overwhelmed nowadays, and their attention span is short. For a speaker, it’s not so much about how to keep the audience’s attention, it’s about regaining it when you’ve lost them! Do them a favour, and allow them to reconnect with your talk by making it as easy as possible to follow along with you.
Examples: Give them lists:
- ‘7 Ways to Get on with your Neighbour’
- ‘The 3 Reasons Why we Should Accept this Offer’
- ‘How to Paint a Wall’
Tell them upfront what the structure of your presentation will be, and them give them signposts as you progress through the talk. Something like: “So we’ve just covered Step 1, how to choose the best paint for your wall surface; now let’s move onto step 2: how to prepare the wall for the new paint”.
Or tell them “Today we’re going to look at the problem we’re facing, and the solutions I suggest”. Give them a framework. Everything you talk about should be relevant and logically related to your main point.
What does a structured presentation give you?
- Certainty – our brains hate uncertainty! Uncertainty means potential danger to our primitive brain. So you’re helping it to feel more ‘comfortable’. This gives you more…
- Confidence. When you know the structure, you can remember where you’re going much more easily. It gives you a framework to hang onto. Plus you’ll know you’re helping the audience, so it’s a win/win.
Do you always use a structure when you present? If not, give it a go and see how it can help you.