One of my favorite treats is to read a delightful children’s book to my 8-month-old son called “Little Blue Truck
The book, about a little blue truck that makes friends with farm animals who help it get unstuck from a muddy patch in a country road, teaches a great lesson about forming friendships.
Part of what makes the book so fun to read is that it allows me to perform animal sounds—Mooooo! Baaahhh! Cluck!
I get rather engaged in my performances, giving dramatic readings intended to earn an occasional smile from my little boy.
A few nights ago, I had barely made it to the middle of the book before my son started squirming out of my arms. I was determined to make it through the book, so I amped up my performance to regain his attention.
He continued to squirm, getting increasingly agitated, and then I finally had an (admittedly obvious) insight: “Wait! I’m not the audience. He is!”
I had become so enamored of reading the book to my son that I had forgotten who the audience for the activity was.
That’s a lesson many presenters can learn from. Too often, they’re so enamored of something they’re talking about—a detailed and barely related point, a “you-had-to-be-there story,” or a personal pet project—that they forget who their real audience is and what they care about.
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So, remember your audience. Trim your presentations of what behavior change specialist Jerry Sternin dubbed “TBUs”—“true but useless” facts. If you find yourself beginning to ramble, activate a voice in the back of your mind that pointedly asks, “Is this directly related to my main point?” If not, remind yourself of the lesson I relearned while reading to my son:
“Wait! I’m not the audience. They are!”
Brad Phillips is author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He is also the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.