Educate Yourself Before You Educate Your Audience

Of my own choosing, I was in an advanced math class my junior year in high school. The teacher was not the most charismatic teacher and actually told my mom that the only reason any student was in advanced math in high school was because their parents made them.

The results of that experience were not great for me or for some of the other students in class. While I am sure there were some who excelled, I was not one of them. I needed more than simple information from the instructor. I needed some inspiration as well. I didn’t pass that class and had to make up the missed credit the next year, and you better believe that it wasn’t made up in a math class.

Although I didn’t know the Three Irrefutable Laws of Public Speaking at the time, that teacher absolutely derailed the first law: Start where your audience is. He readily stated that his students were not there because they wanted to be there, and that outlook and belief determined the way he taught. He left all the inspiration in the hallways and provided only the basics of trigonometry.

Your audience, whether a class or a single individual, needs to be addressed where they are and not where you are as the teacher, presenter, speaker, parent or friend.

Sometimes that is a physical location, as it was with a friend of mine who was having a challenge with his teenage daughter. He decided that an upcoming business trip involving four or five days in the car was the perfect time and place to connect with his teenager.

It was just him and her, and that time of being where she was did a great deal of good for their relationship.

Generally when thinking of your audience, it is best to understand where they are mentally and experientially before deciding how to proceed with presenting or speaking. In a one-on-one situation, knowledge is gained by asking questions and actually listening to the answers. In a group setting, a great quote from Sherlock Holmes applies: “While the individual man in an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.”

The entire insurance industry is built upon that mathematical certainty and it applies when designing and giving speeches, classes and presentations. Find the trends that apply to your group as a whole, build your class around those trends, and then present the material in a way that is more than just basic information like how my high-school math teacher did.

Present it with a combination of inspiration and information delivered in an engaging and entertaining way, and you will have a winning combination and an involved class.