Why is empathy so important in your presentations? Because you need people to trust you. If you want people to buy in to what you’re saying, they need to believe that you understand them and that you have their interests at heart.

In short, they need to know you’re on their side.

So, show them that THEIR worries are YOUR worries; THEIR problems are YOUR problems…and you’ve found the solution. And if it works for you, it’ll work for them.

You need to make sure your audience identifies with you; that they recognise themselves in you. Once you build that emotional connection, you can move in with your call to action. But if you don’t set it up with a clear narrative, showing that you’re part of the same story, your audience won’t engage. They won’t believe you.

When you sit down to write your next presentation, your starting point should be: what do I want my audience to FEEL? Then get inside that and build your relationship from your audience’s point of view. Your focus is on THEM, not YOU.

So, how do you do this?

  • Learn about your audience. You know what you want them to DO after they’ve heard you speak but, to move them to do it, you need to know which emotion to appeal to. What do you want them to feel? Excitement, compelling them to act? Relief, that someone understands their problem? Shame, that they’re not using the most efficient method? Identify this and use your skills as a speaker to lead them through the emotional journey and leave them with their clear call to action.
  • Sharing a personal story is the best way to create an emotional connection with your audience. If you talk about your own family; your own journey; your own professional experience, people will begin to relate to you. You’re using your story to demonstrate that you share their values, and you can begin to align yourself with your audience. You need to get your audience to trust you, and stories are the best way of planting your ideas in their brain.
  • Stories are also a brilliant way of bringing data to life. By framing your numbers in a narrative, you’re turning an abstract idea into something emotional and memorable. Your audience needs to see themselves – their predicaments, their needs – in your numbers. So, don’t tell me that your new data software saves an average 26 mins of inputting time a day. Instead tell me about how, now that Tessa in finance is using the software, she’s making an earlier train home every day and gets to see her kids before bed. You want your audience to see themselves or their loved ones in the characters presented right back at them.
  • Make sure you’ve practised your presentation so that you feel confident enough for your body language to be natural. If your non-verbal communication doesn’t match your verbal, you won’t come across as genuine. Even better, try to mirror your audience’s body language. If they incline their head to ask a question, do the same when you answer it. If they use gesture, subtly replicate it.
  • Maintain soft eye contact; use it to show that you understand your audience’s concerns.
  • Your vocabulary needs to frequently relate to your audience: “I wonder if you feel….?”; “You may be thinking, like I did…..”. You’re reflecting their feelings back at them, whilst at the same time reiterating that you are they, they are you… you have a shared common purpose. You’re also validating their feelings.


People don’t like being told what to do. And we don’t like change. If you’re to persuade us to buy in to your idea, you’ve got to use skill to take us with you.

Try approaching your next presentation from an empathetic standpoint. Get in touch with me to learn more about how to use storytelling, imagination and empathy to connect with your audience and deliver a brilliant presentation.