How often have you heard a speaker start like this?
“Today, I want to share with you the steps I took to be the success I am today.”
You’ve probably heard something similar. “What’s wrong with that?” you may be wondering. Well, nothing, really. It’s just not nearly as engaging as it could be. Take a look at the basic subject-verb structure of that sentence: it says “I want.” Really, does the audience care what the speaker wants? The shoe should be on the other foot. From the very start, the speaker should be showing an interest in what the audience wants and needs.
Now imagine that same speaker starting off with this statement:
“Today you are going to pick up three tools you can start using right away to become more successful than you might have thought possible.”
As an audience member, how would you feel upon hearing that opening sentence? Intrigued? Interested? Curious? Any one of those feelings is more likely to follow this opening than the first one, because right away you know the answer to the question lurking in every audience member’s mind, “What’s in it for me?”
In a nutshell, the secret to being “you-focused” is to have empathy for your audience. A speaker with empathy will be able to anticipate – and therefore answer – the questions running through the listeners’ minds.
This shows up in the words being used. Take a look at that first opening line again. Notice the pronouns: “I…I…I…” That’s right, the speaker refers to himself three times in one sentence, with only a single reference to the audience. In the second example, the word “you” appears three times, and there’s no reference to “I” or “me.” This points to a simple tool you can use to gauge how audience-focused you are. Look at your written speech – or a transcription of your recorded speech, if you have one. Count the number of uses of the first-person pronouns I, me, my, and mine. Then count the number of uses of the second-person pronouns you, your, and yours. Which group do you use more often? This is called the “I-to-you ratio” and it’s a good indicator of how engaging you are as a speaker. A world-class speaker will refer to the audience many more times than he refers to himself.
I challenge you to use this tool both as a speaker and as a listener. Next time you have the chance to hear a good speaker, try to make a mental note of how many times you hear “you” versus “I”. If the speaker is truly engaging, my money is on the “you’s” to be more predominant. You be the judge!
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