by Nancy Duarte
1. Audiences have someone to compare you to: It used to be that most people sucked at presenting. So if you sucked too, you were rarely called on it because so many people were just like you. But now, with TED talks, people have something to compare you to. If even the geekiest scientist can mesmerize you with her ideas on the TED stage, people start to realize that it’s no longer OK to be boring. Today, if you suck, it will hurt your brand.
2. Audiences won’t sit still and take it anymore: Audiences have more distinguished tastes. If you do suck at a conference, people will get up and leave right during your talk. Audiences who used to suffer quietly, now use social media backchannels to see what their neighbors think of you. In the worst cases, people can use social media to revolt and cause walk outs. You can compensate for a bad talk by keeping it short. An audience can endure a bad, short talk better than a bad, long talk, but they still won’t like it.
3. Audiences are used to shorter media: We’ve quickly become a culture that prefers information in short bursts. The popularity of social media, blog posts, and the thirty-minute sitcom are proof of that. If you have an hour to present, do not use the entire hour for a one-way diatribe. Mix it up with different speakers, vary the media types, introduce interaction, and save time for Q&As. The 18-minute TED talk length has proven that getting a great idea out succinctly--even if it’s somewhat complicated—creates greater traction than diluting your talk with a bunch of detail.
4. Audiences can tell if you invested time in them: The quality of your talk is directly proportionate to the amount of time you spent on it. People are crazy busy. If you ask the audience to give you an hour of their time then ramble, meander and bore them, they feel like you didn’t care enough about them (or your idea) to prepare. When the presentation is high-stakes, you can’t afford NOT to invest the time. You need to treat their time as precious. There’s a real trick to fitting within a tight time slot. It takes a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it.
5. Audiences will spread great ideas: When you make the sacrifice to do a presentation well, the reward is that your ideas will spread, get adopted and create great change. The sheer volume of views on TED.com is proof of this reward. Even in organizations, the people who present well are the ones who get their ideas adopted, funded or purchased.
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