“Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.” – Benjamin Disraeli
There is something about standing in front of an audience that seems to sharpen our “I” sight. It seems that all we can see that’s worth talking about is “I did this”, “I know that” and “I think the other thing.”
It’s no surprise. We’re often taught that we should write and speak about what we know best, and there’s nothing we know better than ourselves. But there’s also no faster way to lose an audience.
Unless you’ve walked on the moon, lived with wild wolves or been abducted by aliens, and you have a video of the inside of their ship to prove it, you’re simply not as interesting to your audience as their own lives are.
That doesn’t mean you can do nothing but tell your audience how great, wise and capable they are, although several famous speakers have built careers on just that. It does mean, however, that you need to speak to the audience’s desires, concerns and interests.
At the very least, it means you need to understand what the audience cares about, but with a bit of research, imagination and a basic understanding of human psychology, that’s no so hard to figure out.
You can then use your experiences, opinions and knowledge to cast light on the audience’s interests in a way that illuminates their own lives and challenges, lighting the path for them.
If you’ve built an internet business from nothing into a multi-million dollar concern, use your story, not to brag, but to show us the possibilities of being an entrepreneur in the age of virtual business.
If you’ve survived a crippling disease or injury and gone on to become happy and successful, tell us how you did it, not for your own aggrandizement, but to inspire others to look beyond their short-term setbacks and keep a positive attitude.
If you’ve used wacky PR stunts to get free media exposure for a controversial political or social cause, show us how you did it, not as an excuse to climb back on your soapbox, but as a primer for other social activists.
Put your experience, your insight, your knowledge in terms that will be useful to us and relevant to our challenges, and we’ll happily listen to you for hours.