Presentation Skills: Presentation Preparation; Audience AnalysisYou Talkin' To Me?
Know Your Audience… And What It Takes To Persuade, Inspire and Motivate Them
When you're preparing a presentation, what do you need to know about your audience?
The short answer: as much relevant information as possible. But just where do you begin?
As part of your planning, keep these pointers in mind:
Know the size of your audience.
Will you be speaking to just a few people or to dozens or even hundreds of people? Clearly, the audience size determines the physical setting and, in turn, guides the type of visuals you should use. What's more, for a large audience, you may need to use a lectern and a microphone. If so, that will enter into your planning and preparation as well.
Know the attitudes and biases of your audience.
This may be easy to do if you're presenting to a small number of colleagues, in contrast to an audience you haven't met before. Easy or not, it's important nonetheless. What does your audience think about your topic? What do they think about you? Are they likely to be skeptical - even hostile? Or are they likely to respond favorably? If your goal is to persuade or motivate your audience, what biases, concerns or fears must you first overcome to achieve your goal? You may decide in the end that you cannot completely satisfy everyone's concerns. But at least you can present your position strategically, while taking those concerns into account and through that, showing your own awareness and sensitivity.
As much as possible, know what motivates your audience.
Your audience may have strongly held views about your topic. They may also have certain expectations. What are these, and what can you do to help meet them? There may be issues that trigger strong emotions in your audience. Find out what these are, and prepare to deal with them.
How much does your audience already know?
Good communicators never talk down to their audience. If your audience already knows a good deal about your topic, your presentation should build on what your audience knows, and not simply repeat what is already known. Good communicators also don't talk over the head of others. If your audience knows little about your topic, tell them what they need to know to respond as you want them to.
Talk to their interests, not yours.
You should talk to the specific interests of your audience. Again, those interests are easy enough to know if you're presenting to an intimate group of colleagues. With other audiences, however, it may take some digging. Don't assume or guess what those interests are: ask, instead. An audience of senior-level managers, for example, may well have different interests than an audience of entry-level professionals. Factors such as educational and job background, professional interest, even recent work or personal experiences your listeners might have had, are also important. You may also want to know the relationship of your audience members to one another. Do they have common interests, or do their interests conflict with one another? Again, the more you know about these, the more likely you are to connect with your listeners from their point of view.
The "What's- in-it-for me?" rule.
This is also known as the "Why- should-I-listen-to-you?" rule. It applies especially to business audiences. When preparing your presentation, embed the answers to these questions early in your remarks, so that your listeners know what they're going to get out of your presentation.
One more time: Your audience is where it all starts.
It follows that this part of your preparation - the phase known as audience analysis - is essential in determining how you will build your presentation. The more you know about your audience, the better you can target your remarks to reflect their specific interests and concerns. And the more likely you are to succeed as a presenter.