Uncharacteristically, I attended a fashion show yesterday evening. It was a charity fundraising event and local women were modelling locally made clothes. Some beautiful garments were paraded in front of an enthusiastic crowd but it wasn’t the success it should have been and the reason is the same one that undermines so many speeches and presentations: the amateur models moved far too quickly.
I sympathise with these women. They were clearly uncomfortable with so many eyes on them and keen to get back to the safety of the changing room. But I think another factor was that they simply weren’t considering what the audience needed from them. This is an easy mistake to make if you’re unaccustomed to public performance and feeling nervous, but it makes for an unsatisfactory experience all round. The spectators were frustrated not to be able to get a proper look at the clothes as the models hared along the catwalk. By the time we learnt the price of the items and where we could purchase them, they were no longer in front of us, which resulted in much lower sales than could otherwise have been achieved.
When you’re delivering a talk, think about it from the audience’s point of view. If your one idea is to get through this as quickly as possible and get off the stage, you’re not allowing your listeners the opportunity to evaluate what you’re saying. They’re struggling to keep pace with you and have no time to reflect on the meaning or implications of what they’re hearing. How would you feel in their position? My guess is you’d feel similar to the way I felt at the fashion show. Give the audience a chance to appreciate what you’re offering them and they’re much more likely to buy it.