“Why the hell am I so nervous?” I wondered.
In moments I would get up to speak to an audience of three thousand in Mexico City at an entrepreneurship conference. Despite the many people, I wasn’t sure why I was so nervous. Usually, the larger the crowd, the more excited, not nervous, I got.
Right before I took the stage, my friend, entrepreneur, speaker and author Mike Michalowicz, who was up after me, approached. I thought he could sense my nerves.
“Big crowd, eh?’ Mike said. I nodded, and then Mike shared with me an important lesson that has stuck with me ever since.
“Remember,” he said. “It’s all about them, not you. Inspiring your audience is all about helping them see their own vision, not yours.”
It’s critical advice for anyone trying to inspire others whether it’s from the stage at a large conference; in a meeting with a boss, team, or department; on a client pitch or sales call; or at home with one’s spouse and kids.
Like it or not, people don’t care about you, not the way they care about themselves, their families, and their close friends. Think about it: You’re reading this so you can improve your communication and people skills, but you don’t really care about me, Dave, except for how I can help you. And that’s okay!
Whether you speak to an audience of three thousand, three hundred, 30, or three, if your hope is to inspire them, your material and delivery have to be about them and how they can grow, not about you.
This doesn’t mean you can’t tell stories about yourself, share things you’ve learned, or talk about your products, services, features, and benefits. All those things are fair game and often are very helpful in delivering an inspiring presentation. Storytelling in particular, is a great way to make a lesson or message come alive. But as you tell stories, or do a product demo, or talk about your company, it’s essential that you paint a picture of what your audience’s life looks like now and what they want it to look like.
People like hearing success stories. But you know what they like more? Their own success stories. If you want to inspire (and perhaps sell something along the way), you’ll want to get people thinking about themselves and their future selves.
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking it’s about you or your product. If you’re a salesperson or an entrepreneur or a leader, the spotlight is often on you and the product you sell. But no matter how much the spotlight is on you, it’s essential to stay humble and keep the conversation about the other person or people in the room, not about you.
This is especially valuable as both a mindset and a tool in creating presentations. For instance, if you’re doing a sales presentation, the slides should remind your audience what their problem is and how your solution will alleviate it. It should help them imagine and even envision life without that problem.
Even if you’re not a professional speaker, you’re probably in the business of inspiring someone in your work. Certainly, all salespeople and marketers are. Whenever you aim to inspire, it’s helpful to remind yourself that it’s not about you.
Next time you prepare to speak, remember these four tips:
1. Write down the names of the people you want to inspire at work and at home.
2. For all those people, write down what you think their vision of themselves will be in six months, one year, and three years. If you’re not sure, ask them.
3. The next time you prepare to speak to them, remind yourself what their vision of themselves is and how whatever you are selling can help them achieve that vision. Then use that to frame your remarks.
4. Every time you speak or present to a new audience, remember that it’s not about you!