Great Presentations: The Audience Is The Hero

You need to defer to your audience because if they don’t engage and believe in your presentation’s message, you are the one who loses. Without their help, your idea will fail.

You are not the hero who will save the audience; the presentation audience is your hero.

Screenwriter Chad Hodge points out in Harvard Business Review that we should “[help] people to see themselves as the hero of the story, whether the plot involves beating the bad guys or achieving some great business objective. Everyone wants to be a star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.” Business leaders need to take this to heart, place the people in the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally.

When you show up to give a presentation, your attitude shouldn’t be an arrogant, “It’s all about me.” Instead, it should be a humble, “It’s all about them.” Remember, your success—and the success of your firm—both depend on them, not the other way around. You need them.

If you’re asking yourself, “What’s my role?” the answer is, you’re the mentor. You’re not Luke Skywalker. You’re Yoda. It’s the audience that’s going to do all the hard work so that you can attain your objectives. You’re just a voice that can help them get unstuck on their journey.

Mentors are usually depicted as sources of wisdom. Modern examples of mentors are The Oracle in The Matrix or Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. As a mentor, your task is to support the hero with guidance, insight, training and advice, instill confidence, and even provide magical gifts so he can get past his fears and begin a new journey with you.

If you alter your stance from seeing yourself as the hero to accepting the role of mentor, your viewpoint will change. You’ll feel more humility as your audience’s aide de camp. Remember, the nature of a mentor is to be selfless and willing to make personal sacrifices to help the hero obtain his reward.

Most mentors have the experience to teach others about the journey because they were once heroes themselves. They can share the knowledge they gained about special tools and powers they picked up on their own life’s journey. Mentors have traveled the hero’s road before and they can pass on the skills they acquired to the hero.

You may well be the smartest person in the room where you’re giving your presentation, but you must wield the power that knowledge gives you wisely and humbly. You should never view a presentation as a chance to show how brilliant you are. You want the audience to leave thinking, “Wow, spending time in that presentation with (your name goes here) was a true gift. I’m armed with insights and tools to help me succeed that I didn’t have before.”

Changing your stance from hero to mentor will clothe you in humility and help you see things from a new perspective. Audience insights and resonance can only occur when a presenter takes a stance of humility. Explore the multimedia version of Resonate to learn more about creating a persuasive presentation.