Teacher/Me: Your audience has to care about your topic. Look at them, ask them do they want to hear you speak about why the Cavaliers beat the Warriors.
Student: But I’ve got facts and points in the game I can describe that show the Cavaliers are a superior team.
Teacher/Me: Look at the 15 people in this room, they don’t care. They’d be on their phones if they weren’t banned from using them during class. Look, the best point I can make to all of you about speaking, presentations, interviewing, talking in a meeting or in a class, your audience has got to care about what you are saying. If they don’t, why are you speaking?
Yes, I was harsh. These were kids in high school, If nothing else, I wanted them to understand with public speaking, you have got to identify why your audience cares about what you have to say. I call it an assumptive care. You are assuming your listener cares. Ask yourself, does the audience care about my topic before speaking. You will realize at times, the answer is no, the audience does not care. When the audience has no interest, you have two options. Be quiet or become more introspective and ask what would it take to make the audience care about this topic. For example, when the conversation turns to funding schools, I disengage. I don’t have kids in the school systems. Then someone related the impact of high ratings for schools districts on the increase in home values. Oh wait, school measures will impact my home value, I’m listening. That was the “hook,” the reason for me to be interested in what the speaker had to say. Most importantly, that “hook” has to be lead in for the talk. The speaker has to state int he beginning, high school district rating impact home values, if you want me to listen. For people with kids, the hook may be about academic success rates. The point is, your audience has to care about what you have to say, and what makes the audience care varies.
I’m not advocating dissecting every conversation and analyzing every topic before speaking, by asking does my audience care about what I have to say? When I am ordering my coffee in Starbucks, my assumptive care, when the barista says hello, it is fine to order my latte. However, if speaking to an audience, presenting in a meeting, or doing an interview, consider a little more thought is required. Your words and responses should be tempered with what your audience cares about.
There is an assumptive care, when you speak. You are making the assumption the listener has some interest in what you have to say. Do they? It’s worth a pause to ask, does your audience really care about what you are saying? If the answer is no,it’s beneficial to refrain unless you can find the “hook”that will make them care. If you want to have an impact, people have to listen. Remember, just because people can hear you, doesn’t mean they are listening to you.
P.S. The kid did an amazing job of finding a hook for his 2 minute talk. He framed his talk around the value of debate and how it is worth listening to an opposing viewpoint as an informed society. My work is done.