The advice that turned Serial into a powerhouse can make you a better presenter.
Each episode of Season 1 of the podcast “Serial” was downloaded over a million times. Yet creator Sara Koenig says that the early drafts of the podcast were not good.
Early on in Season 1, “Serial” podcast creator and host Sara Koenig was having big problems with her plan for the show. Over the course of twelve episodes starting in the fall of 2014, Serial would tell the story of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student. Her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, a classmate, was convicted of the crime.
“The first episode came pretty easily” Koenig told David Remnick on the New Yorker Radio Hour. Then came trouble. “The second episode we did edit after edit; it was taking weeks. My colleagues were telling me, ‘It’s not working. It’s not good.’” Her true crime story was dramatic and exciting, but something was missing. Everything changed when Koenig’s producing partner Julie Snyder told her exactly what was wrong. “I need to know what you, Sara Koenig, make of all this. Otherwise I don’t care.” Snyder said. “I don’t know why you’re telling me about these high school kids. I need you to make me care.”
“I need to know what you, Sara Koenig, make of all this. Otherwise I don’t care.”
And the rest is podcast history. Serial went on to be the most popular podcast in the world, with each single episode of the 12-episode season being downloaded over a million times. And Koenig’s close relationship with the audience was a major reason for the show’s popularity. She would share her skepticism, her questioning, and her willingness to constantly change her mind about the case. She was smart, she was human, and there is no doubt that the millions of people who listened around the world did so because they liked and trusted Sara Koenig.
So, what does the Serial podcast have to do with your presentation?
A lot. Koenig had a great story with facts and evidence, but her audience was going to need more; they were going to need to form a relationship with the “teller.” Listeners needed to trust the person who was presenting this mountain of evidence, to know that the storyteller wasn’t biased. Or if she was biased, she would own up to it.
I know that presentation audiences feel the same way about the presenter. They want to know how you, the presenter, feel about the material you’re presenting, how you came to your conclusion, what your doubts were along the way. Sharing your personal thoughts and feelings about the content creates a relationship between you and the audience and builds trust and credibility. And that relationship is far more powerful than your data.
Four presentation tips to make your audience care about what you are saying
1. If your presentation shares data, tell us your response to that data. Were you surprised by the data you found? Glad? Disappointed? Tell us why.
2. If your presentation presents a solution to a problem, why not tell us how you experienced the problem. What were your personal frustrations dealing with the problem? Can you share an anecdote dealing with your experience?
3. Why are you personally happy about this solution? Even if it doesn’t directly impact you, can you be happy about how it will help colleagues at the company?
4. If your presentation gives bad news or makes difficult suggestions, can you share disappointment or empathy for those who might be affected?
It doesn’t have to be all about you, but adding your personal perspective builds your credibility and establishes trust and likability. Show us why you care, and maybe we’ll care too.
How do you make your audience care about your presentations? Please share your ideas in the comment section.