Novelist Lee Child on the Importance of the Audience

“It’s all about the audience. It’s the audience first, second, third and fourth. Too many writers write to impress their friends, or their colleagues, or their writing groups. They write to appear cool. That way lies failure.  It’s about the audience only.”

Those are the words of one of my favorite writers, Lee Child, who has written a dozen thrillers featuring Jack Reacher, a loner and former military policeman, who roams the United States solving crimes and meting out justice.  The most recent Jack Reacher book is “Nothing to Lose.”

I picked up the quote from Lee Child yesterday while listening on my computer to a recorded interview of Child by WNYC radio broadcaster Leonard Lopate.  Child’s quote came in response to a question about whether Child’s experience writing for television had helped him as a novelist. When Child said it, I paused the interview and scrambled for a piece of paper.

Of course, the same can be said about what it takes to make a great presentation.

The best presenters are focused solely on helping their audience and addressing their needs, whatever they may be. If you’re giving a sales presentation, then the presentation needs to address the prospect’s business problem. If you’re addressing  your company’s board of directors, then you need to help them make a good decision. If you’re addressing your direct reports, then you need to give them information that will help them move ahead in their jobs.

So often, speakers fail because they forget this simple idea that the audience is the only reason we are up there speaking.

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