They want, at minimum, three things.
First, they want to connect with the speaker. They've already sat through way too many remote, aloof speeches and presentations. Audiences want a real person -- not a disembodied voice in the dark reading PowerPoint bullets. Authenticity is so rare in business today you'd think it costs $1 million an ounce. It doesn't. To be an authentic speaker, wear your passion for your topic on your sleeve. Look right into the eyes of audience members. And have a conversation with them.
The second thing audiences look for in most speeches is a hint of entertainment. There's no law against being lively, engaging, and interesting. Don't get me wrong. People aren't expecting you to be Jay Leno or Jon Stewart. Your audience doesn't need big laughs to be entertained.
When you speak, lighten up. Show the audience that you're serious about your topic. But also show them you're not overly somber and serious about yourself. An anecdote about you -- plus a little self-deprecating humor -- can lift the proceedings. To audiences, the ponderously solemn speaker comes across as self-important and self-involved.
The third thing audiences look for is meaning. They want you to fit your organization into the bigger picture. Every organization -- profit or nonprofit; private or public sector -- exists to create value. Tell your audience in really specific terms how you create value for them and for our society. When you connect what your organization does with what your audience knows in their hearts, you create meaning.
Connect with your audience. Lighten up. And show them a meaningful big picture. When you do these three things, you open the door to understanding and acceptance.