Much of the time when I am listening to conference speakers, I hear the speaker constantly telling me what they have achieved and what they have done. In other words, they use the word “I” frequently in their presentation. But the audience wants to know what they should do, what they can learn, and what is in it for them (WIIFM). In other words, the speakers should be saying “you” and “your” as often as they can to their audience.
David Ogilvy an advertising expert, said “Don’t just create content to get credit for being clever — create content that will be helpful, insightful, or interesting for your target audience.”
So, when we are speaking and we say I, it is about us. When we are speaking and we say you, it is about your audience.
What Is an Acceptable I/You Ratio When Public Speaking?
Public speaking is not all about you, the speaker. Your presentation should be centered around your audience, for your audience and be designed to help and assist your audience in some way. That is either solve a problem, remove a barrier, help them achieve their goals, or see a way forward to their success.
I use a rule of thumb of 20/80. No more than 20% about you (use of I) and about 80% about my audience (use of you).
Being audience-centered can result in a deep and real connection with your audience, opening them up to new ideas, changes,s and solutions they had not considered. Being self-centered (using I) will result in you looking and sounding as if you are boasting, building yourself up, and blowing your own horn. This will result in audience disconnection and they will lose interest. Giving a speech is like a gift given to your audience. It is for them and not for the personal benefit of the speaker.
A classic example of where I see “I” used too much is when people give their elevator pitch and respond to the question, “what do you do”. Let me give you examples of my elevator speech.
- My name is Peter Dhu. I am a public speaking trainer and coach and I have been doing this for 12 years now. I am a professional speaker and I also hold an MBA and a Diploma In Professional Coaching. I love to help people like you find your voice and be more confident in public speaking. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.
(8 x Me, My I’s) (3 x You) I/You ratio = 73%/27%
- You know how most people fear public speaking and get nervous, I can help you find your voice so that you can confidently and effectively get your message across to your clients and your communities. This will help you to make the impact and the difference that you want to make through your effective public speaking. Please let me know if I can help you in any way in your public speaking journey.
(3 x Me, I’s) (12 x You) I/You ratio = 20%/80%
Can you see that the first elevator speech is all about me and about self-promotion. The second elevator speech is about you and me trying to help you in your journey and solve your problems.
When you are preparing a seminar, a workshop, or a presentation, please remember it is not about you. It is about your audience. And a great tool to help you realise where your focus lies, and correct it if you need to, is the I/You ratio. What is your current I/You ratio. Do you need to shift away from I and move towards you.
If you would like to enhance your public speaking skills, I run a great workshop that would help you in your confidence, your effectiveness and your ability to influence. You can find the details here – Winning Presentation Skills Workshop.