It’s a presenter’s nightmare.
You spent hours preparing a speech that you hope will make a huge impact on your business. And as you give the talk, you feel like you’re in the zone, covering all your points flawlessly.
But when it comes time for Q&A . . .
Crickets. No questions. Several people glancing at their watches or staring at their smartphones, clearly ready to move on.
SO…WHY NO ENGAGEMENT?
Usually, when an audience loses interest, it’s because you get too focused…on you. And that can be a common trap for all of us as entrepreneurs:
We fall so in love with our own ideas (or product or company) that we forget how vital it is for us to genuinely love our audience — whether we’re speaking to a large crowd for a keynote, giving a product demonstration to a customer, or presenting a business idea to investors.
We fail to engage our audience when we want so badly for them to love us. But they’ll only listen to us…when they first feel our love toward them.
THE POWER OF LOVE
That’s because the key to open people’s hearts (and, ultimately, change their minds) is love.
You can make the most logical argument as to why your product (or service, presentation, or article) should be compelling for an audience, but if you fail to connect with those people on a deep emotional level, you won’t likely move them to take action.
As O.G. Mandino put it in his perennial bestseller, The Greatest Salesman in the World:
“Muscle can split a shield and even destroy life but only the unseen power of love can open the hearts of men, and until I master this art, I will remain no more than a peddler in the marketplace. I will make love my greatest weapon and none on whom I call can defend against its force.”
THINK (AND FEEL) LIKE AN ACTOR
But as an entrepreneur and communicator, how do you apply this power? What does love look like as it relates to communicating to an audience of conference attendees or customers?
The starting point is to immerse yourself into their world, to feel the angst they experience, and envision their aspirations.
It’s much like the process an actor goes through to get into character, so they can make their portrayal as realistic and riveting as possible. That’s because when you can think your audience’s thoughts and feel their emotions, the right words and expressions cannot help but bubble up from deep within you — and make an indelible impression on the people you’re trying to reach.
So, how can you tap into that Lovin’ Feeling before you give your next presentation, write your next piece of content, or perform your next one-on-one product sales demo?
Develop an audience persona.
THE PERSONA FRAMEWORK
A persona is a composite profile of your target audience designed to help you focus your story in a way that addresses the hot-button concerns and aspirations of your market as if you were speaking to one person. It’s a powerful exercise. Some marketers and communicators go as far as to name their persona — Jessica, James, Samantha — with a picture to help them visualize a face with the profile.
My personas aren’t that elaborate. But I do try to think and feel like my audience by brainstorming and researching answers to these six questions:
1. What market segment am I targeting?
In a business-to-business (B2B) environment, think in terms of industry sector — like technology, healthcare, transportation, field service.
2. What is the key job title or role of the person I’m trying to reach in this segment?
CEO, CFO, CIO, VP of Sales, IT Director? Your answer here will determine your answers for questions 3 through 7.
3. What are this person’s core responsibilities?
Depending on the job title/ role, these might be “make purchase decisions on [product/ service],” “ensure equipment uptime,” “manage teams,” etc.)
4. What are this person’s most pressing pain points?
I think of this question like this: If I don’t intervene by sharing this content [about whatever topic I’m going address], what are the biggest fears, worries, and frustrations my audience must continue to endure? (e.g. making an expensive mistake, dealing with complaints, looking stupid, etc.)
5. What are this person’s aspirations?
For example: “Look smart,” “get promoted,” “bolster job security,” etc.
6. How can my content (or product or service) help this person avoid the pain and achieve her aspirations?
The idea here is to position your content [or product or service] as the bridge that helps the audience move from their pain toward what they want — which forms the basis for your communication strategy in the Example Persona below.
After I’ve brainstormed answers to the six questions, I put together a persona in the following format. (This is what a persona might look like if I were writing content to connect with fleet managers — people who make purchase decisions on vehicles, heavy equipment, and technology.)
Market Segment/ Job Title:
Transportation/ fleet manager
Acquire, maintain, and manage multiple vehicles across an organization with the goal of achieving the lowest possible equipment acquisition and operational costs, while securing the highest possible resale values.
Fleet managers are under increasing pressure to do more with less and must find creative ways to reduce costs. Yet, they are usually reluctant to try something new (even with the promise of lower cost and better performance) because of fear of making a mistake that could cost them their jobs. A specification error on a couple vehicles is one thing; a mistake across 100+ vehicles could be catastrophic for a fleet manager’s career.
Reduce costs. Make wise purchase and asset management decisions that make them look smart to senior management. Get promoted — and a raise.
Communicate how [product] expands options for fleet managers to [insert key product feature] — at substantially lower cost and risk than [status quo solution]. [Product] also reduces downtime because it can be quickly and easily removed and replaced, getting workers back to the job sooner.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The starting point to get any audience to fall in love with your story is to first prove your love toward them by investing your time and energy to think their thoughts and feel their pain. Then — and only then — will you be able to tell a story that captures their hearts, changes their minds, and motivates them to act.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tell their story in a way that grabs attention, garners trust, and grows their business.
This was originally published on Strategy & Storytelling.
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