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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Before You Make Your Presentation, Know Your Audience

I’m convinced the greatest speakers and the greatest speeches that have been well known and remembered down through the years are due to the speaker knowing the audience. Knowing what would resonate with them and knowing what would touch them deeply and authentically. Many of those great speeches and presentations are not really that long, but they are powerful and fairly short.

When you know your audience politically, demographically, psychologically and in other ways is a good place to start when you are assembling your presentation. I met with a prospect the other day about engaging me to coach his top manager. The more I learned about him before we met, I knew he was a person of conversation and stories. So, when I made my presentation to him, we just talked about it. No PowerPoint, no brochures or handouts, just a conversation about what he wanted to accomplish and how I could help him do that. It was a major success.

It’s not always possible to know your audience on a deeply personal level, especially if it’s a one-time presentation to a very large group, you can, however, be listening and watching for cues during your talk to incorporate more or less into what you are doing. I’ve skipped past a slide or two in the past if I’ve picked up on cues indicating that content wouldn’t be relevant for some reason. Don’t be so stubborn to do your presentation whether they like it or not. Be smart and connect with them as much as you can without sacrificing items you believe to be important. But, don’t say “they are going to hear this whether they like it or not” when it’s really not that big of a deal.

What do you need to think about or look for when developing content for a presentation? Here are a few items:

What is your audience like? Think about a day in their profession or lives. Outline what that looks like, this way, they will know you understand.

Why are they here? What do they think they are going to get out of this presentation? Are they voluntary and willing participants or has someone made their attendance mandatory? What’s in it for them?

What keeps them awake at night? Everyone has a fear, a pain point. Find a way to empathize with them and you have some things to show them that could help.

How can you help them solve some problems? How can you make their lives better or increase their results? How can you help them get where they want to be? Point to benefits you know they will care about?

What do you want them to do? What will their part in your plan be? How can you show clear actions for everyone to take immediately, soon and down the road?

How might they be resistant to your thoughts? Everyone likes their own thinking more than others thinking. Knowing this, what might keep them from accepting, adopting and becoming supportive of your plan? Remove any and all obstacles if possible.

How can you best reach them? Pointing back to my example I gave above about the presentation I gave in a conversational manner; how does this person or group best receive information? Do they like the room set up in any particular way? Do they want anything to review ahead of time? How about afterward? Give them what you need to in a way they want to get it.

If you have never met these people, do your research. The internet makes it possible to do a lot of research in ways we’ve never had access to before. If you know the names of stakeholders in your audience, look for bios. If you only know some general information about them, find the event on social media and perhaps you can learn what is on their minds ahead of this event. Find press mentions about the company, social media feeds, annual reports or set up Google Alerts to send you new articles about them to your e-mail.

Really knowing and understanding people you will present to makes it better for you to connect with them. When you are ready to present, at that point you can make it more than you just standing and talking. You can offer thoughts and ideas and tell stories. Using this information and developing more of a process to building your talks, both you and they can change a bit for the better in the process.

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