Presenting: 6 things your audience really need from you

If you find yourself presenting your ideas at work soon keep in mind that there are are a number of key elements your audience need from you. This article shares 6 of the big ones.

In 1943 Abraham Maslow released a psychology paper called ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, suggesting we each live by 6 fundamental human needs.

Physiological: what we need for survival

Safety: what we need to feel safe and secure

Love and belonging: a need to feel loved

Esteem: a need to be accepted and valued

Self-actualization: a need to reach our fullest potential

Self-Transcendence: the need for a higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality

This hierarchy still remains extremely popular today in sociology, psychology, management and leadership.

In fact, so much so that Tony Robbins, a recognized authority in the psychology of leadership and motivation presents a similar hierarchy but with a colourful contemporary twist.

Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

Whether you prefer Maslow’s or Robbins’ view of the world I’m mindful of how these needs apply to both presenters and audiences alike and that efforts to understand them can significantly enhance any public speaking performance.

It is incumbent on any presenter to carefully consider and cater for their audiences needs and at Mindful Presenter we believe that Messrs Maslow and Robbins have given us the perfect platform to do so.


The moment you begin to speak your audience needs a level of assurance, comfort and certainty that:

– You have something of value to say and share with them that will make a difference to them either personally or professionally.

– You know what you are talking about.

– You will respect and value their time.

– You will get to the point and keep to it.

– You will make them feel good.

– You will solve a problem for them, create an opportunity, inspire them, clarify something for them or entertain them.

As you prepare your presentation make sure that everything you plan to share, say, show and do is designed to give them the certainty they need. The best way to do so is to put yourself in their position and simply ask yourself whether you are meeting these needs.


This is probably the most onerous challenge for even the most experienced presenter because essentially it means being different, and of course it conflicts with certainty.

Unfortunately, in far too many businesses today most corporate presentations today remain largely the same.

That is, PowerPoint slides laden with bullet points and deluged with data which are painfully read out to the audience as if they can’t read for themselves.

The moment your audience takes their seats your job is to surprise them; to break from the status quo and to stimulate all of their senses by being different, not just reading slides to them.

You can do that by:

– Getting them involved, making your presentation interactive, asking them questions, getting them to close their eyes and imagine, getting them up and doing something, getting them to turn to someone, or simply raise their hands.

– Telling them stories ( relevant ones)

– Being excited and passionate about what you are sharing

– Not memorizing your presentation and being relaxed and spontaneous

– Playing music, using humour, props, videos, polling your audience, etc.

– Using ice breakers, energisers

– Letting your audience drive the presentation — lay out all of your main points, and then let them choose which topics they want to focus on.


The most common mistake we see at Mindful Presenter is self-promotion.

That means the presenter making it all about themselves, an ego trip of self-importance and self-indulgence.

As you can imagine, it’s not only the most common mistake it’s the biggest too as its completely contrary to what your audience actually needs.

It’s our job as presenters to make our audience feel special, important and as if they are the only people that matter in that moment.

We each have an innate desire to be recognised, respected and appreciated and we can fulfil those desires for our audience by making our presentation all about them.

To achieve that, preparation and empathy are the key.

Knowing as much as you possibly can about your audience before you even begin to prepare will enable you to put yourself in their shoes and really begin to understand who they are, how they feel and what they need from you.

Once you understand them you can think about how to brighten up their day and make them feel special.


At Mindful Presenter our tagline is ‘connecting is everything’; that’s what we live by and that’s what we teach when it comes to presenting.

Your audience wants nothing more from you than to feel connected to you and connected to your message and its only in your sincere attempt to create that connection that will you achieve that sense of union, understanding and belonging.

Making that connection is not as difficult as it may seem and you can begin by:

– Talking about what your audience needs to hear, not what you want to say.

– Being open, personal and even a little vulnerable; show them who you really are.

– Telling them stories they can relate to that illustrate your point and bring it to life.

– Having a sense of humour — That doesn’t mean telling them jokes; it just means being a little light hearted and not taking yourself too seriously.

– Making genuine and sincere eye contact.

– Smiling, relaxing and being the very best version of you that you can be.

– Giving them a gift. During presentation training workshops I personally lead, I often give out a copy of my book ‘ Hamster to Harmony.’


How’s that for a challenge, helping your audience to grow?

It may sound like a tall order but if you shift perspective a little and suggest to yourself that’s the only reason you have the privilege of addressing them in the first place then everything changes.

The proposition that it’s a presenter’s job to help an audience to grow in some way is an interesting and extremely rewarding one. It means helping them to grow understanding, knowledge and insight and to even grow emotionally or intellectually.

The opportunity to inspire change and help an audience to feel differently after they have spent some time listening to you is an immense honour which should serve as the catalyst for you to turn a presentation from a speech to a memorable experience.


Most presentations are designed to inspire or initiate some form of action; at the end you normally want your audience to do something.

Interestingly, that’s the point where many presentations fall short, they fizzle out at the end like a damp firework leaving the audience unclear as to why they just sat through the last 20 minutes and what you want them to do with the ideas or information presented to them.

Contrary to popular belief most audience are not only happy to, but want and expect you to have them do something. If they get you and they get your message, (in other words if you’ve connected with them) then they would like nothing more than to be of service and to contribute in some way.

Your job is to get them to that point where they want to do so, to make it abundantly clear what you want them to do and to help them to do it.

Watch Tony Robbins elaborate on the 6 human needs in this TED Talk ‘Why we do what we do’, and as you do, consider carefully how these may apply to your audience at your next presentation.

Tony Robbins just so happens to be one of my personal favourite speakers and you’ll see why from this video.

10 Years ago I flew to New Jersey in the US to spend the weekend with Tony teaching me and several thousand other people to do the ‘fire walk’, an experience I would highly recommend. Not only do you get to learn from one of the world’s most respected speakers, you get to fulfil a few of these human needs too.

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

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Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.

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Maurice DeCastro

Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.

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