How does this person think?

“How does this person think?”

Maybe your audience members don’t know who you are. They might not even care about your subject. But they probably want to know how you think.

It’s a natural human impulse: We want to know how other people solve problems, because maybe they can solve problems we can’t.

If you can connect to that impulse in your audience, you can give a great speech to anyone, no matter who they are.

We see this problem pop up a lot with TEDx speeches — the speaker only connects with the audience members who are already in his or her industry, because those people already know what problems the speaker is trying to solve.

For example, the speaker is an urban planner, and he gets up on stage and starts talking about urban planning things he thinks are interesting. The other urban planners in the audience think, “Wow, yes, that is interesting, I love the way this guy thinks,” but the other audience members don’t know what to do with the words coming out of the speaker’s mouth, because they are not urban planners, and so they have no context to put those words into.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve. All audience members are humans, and almost all humans are trying to solve some problem or other.

So in your speech, open by describing a problem that needs solving, and do it in a way that almost everyone can relate to, and then show your audience how you solve it. For example:

“A couple years ago, my wife and I were trying to walk down the street. We were trying to push a baby carriage with our little boy in it, but the sidewalks were too narrow. We couldn’t get past anything. So I started wondering, I’m an urban planner, what can I do to make sure other people don’t have this same problem?”

Now all of the audience members are listening to see how you are going to solve this problem.

Then show them some examples of how you solve the problem of pedestrian access in all of your projects. The outline of your speech will be something like this: #1: Challenge, solution. #2: Challenge, solution. #3: Challenge, solution.

When your speech is over, very few of your audience members are going to go home thinking, “Next time I need an urban planner, I’m going to call that guy,” but they weren’t going to do that anyway.

What they WILL do is go home thinking, “I like how that urban planner thinks,” and next time they have a problem, they’re going to think about you and ask, “How would that guy solve this one?”