When asked to give a presentation, whether it’s to a prospect or at an event, the first question we typically ask is “What’s the topic?”
Sure, we all want to know what we will be speaking about so that we can prepare, but this is a self-centered concern. What we should ask first is “Who’s my audience?”
Before you begin to prepare your speech, you must first consider your audience. It’s crucial that you find out as much as you can about who you will be presenting to so you can determine what you will present and how you will present it.
What do you need to know about your audience? A lot.
- Level of subject matter knowledge
- Cultural orientation
- Job function
What you are striving for here is to understand why they would be interested in your topic and how they will use the information you present.
For example, suppose you’re presenting a product sales pitch to a prospect. This could be a lucrative sale so you want to be sure your presentation is on target. If you present to a group that includes the CFO, IT director, and office manager, you will want to include information that’s pertinent to each person as it relates to their job function and pain points. The CFO needs to understand cost justification and cost savings; the IT Director wants to understand the technical requirements and how much IT support the product requires, and the office manager is wondering how the product will increase productivity and how much training is required.
Now let’s say that you get an email from the IT Director right before the presentation saying that she cannot attend, but is sending a trainee in her place. You would be well-served to add a slide or two of basic product information that illustrates technical benefits on a more elementary scale.
Let’s look at a non-business example. The speech you prepare for an auditorium of high-school students on safe driving should be different than the same topic presented to the PTA. For the students, you want to use scenarios and examples that are relevant to them, such as not texting and driving, limiting distractions, and not using controlled substances.
The speech to the PTA would most likely include how to speak to teens about road safety, ways to implement a safe driving program at the school, and what parents can do to set a good example at home.
It’s the same topic, but two very different presentations. Let’s take it a step further, since not only your topic and content should vary based on your audience.
Would you use the same graphics and photos for the teens vs. the PTA audience? What about multimedia or references to pop culture? Would you use the same tone and pace for a younger audience as you would for parents? Hopefully not.
The more you know about your audience in advance, the better you can tailor your presentation for their eyes and ears and the more successful you will be. They will come away with a better experience, and you will have had a greater impact on them.