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How Understanding your Audience is the Secret Weapon to Delivering an Effective Presentation

Posted September 20th, 2021

We’ve all sat in an audience during a presentation and been less focused on “what can I get out of this?” and more focused on “when can I get out of this?”

One mistake that many of us make when we’re planning and executing a presentation is to focus so much on the content and the delivery that we forget the most important element – the audience! Presentations are not one size fits all, and the same presentation may be received differently depending on who it is being presented to. An un-engaging and ineffective presentation may negatively impact results, putting you or your business at risk!

Of course, content, delivery and recognising objectives are all fundamental elements of great public speaking. Trainer Bubble offers an abundance of resources to help ensure you’re well prepared, familiar with your key messages and purpose; and confident when you are establishing your voice and style as a public speaker.

However, it’s tried and tested that knowing your audience is critical to success as it will set the tone, content and approach for your presentation. Starting with the audience will impact every other aspect of how you deliver your information. You may not always know the audience you’ll be presenting to and it’s dangerous to make assumptions about them! Doing some preparation around the audience’s needs can make all the difference when it comes to a great presentation.

Try using this list of questions as a starting point to build a bigger picture about your audience, and adapt your content and style to suit them…

Analysis: Who are they? How many of them will be there?

Knowing how many people you’re going to be presenting to is important when shaping your approach. A small audience provides a more personal feel, in which case it’s important to know more about each member. You should also prepare for more direct interaction and engagement. Understanding small group dynamics is key! Similarly, a large group makes it more important to be clear and concise, as there is less room for discussion, and you’re trying to hold the engagement of more people – it’s harder to pull members of large groups back in once you lose their attention.

Understanding: What is their existing knowledge of the subject?

You don’t want to bore your audience or make them feel condescended by relaying information they are already familiar with. Knowing beforehand what they already know will help you focus on the new information and/or solutions that you want to relay to them.

Demographics: Where do the audience fit into the wide company? Are there any biases I should consider?

Demographics within your audience must consider both social demographics and business-related ones. Knowing your audience allows you to make a rational judgment about how their views of your topic might be shaped. It is important to recognise which opinions can be challenged, and which should be respected.

Interest: Who asked them to be here? What are they here for?

Presenting to a group of teenagers in school is a completely different ballgame to presenting to a group of senior managers within a business. Knowing your audience’s attitudes to attendance and their attitudes towards the subject matter is crucial in shaping your content and delivery. Will they be resistant to any changes you’re suggesting? Are they enthusiastic about the information you have to offer them? How can you make the content appealing to them?

Environment: What are your surroundings?

It’s important to consider the space you will be presenting in. Will the environment impact the audience’s attention span? What distractions may be present? For example, if you’re presenting in the afternoon, audience members may be counting down until it’s time to go home. Perhaps offering breaks during your presentation will be helpful or closing blinds if you’re on the ground floor near a main road. Every space is different, try to make yours as fit for purpose as you can in order to keep your audience focused on you.

Needs: What are the general needs?

What is your audience looking for in your presentation? What key themes are important for you to relay to them? If they only learn a few things from you, what will they be and how can you make these aspects clearest for them.

Customised: What more specific needs are important to this audience?

Each audience is different, and much like the previous discussion under ‘Interest’, knowing the uniqueness of your audience is paramount. Sometimes we provide the same content to different groups within businesses, in schools, or perhaps both. Aside from the key themes of your presentation, what specifics may be most relevant for each audience? Are there any activities or methods that may work better with some groups than others? Be sure to customise your content and delivery to keep it relevant!

Expectations: What do they expect to learn from me?

Finally, what are your audience looking for from you? For example, if you are presenting a new strategy to people within your business, how can you break it down to ensure you successfully provide all the information that is expected? Particularly if you are dealing with higher ups in your organisation or have been brought in from outside the company.

So, whilst these questions may not be an exhaustive list, answering them before or during your planning will have a positive impact on all elements of your presentation. Understanding your audience helps you to successfully communicate your ideas, whether that’s adapting your delivery to suit them, or taking actions to maintain interest from your audience.

With all of that said… the audience may be a starting point, but they are not the only thing to consider when delivering a presentation. You should also not underestimate the importance of a good structure for your presentation, the technology used to deliver your presentation, and the qualities of an effective public speaker. Trainer Bubble offers an extensive range of resources to help you deliver a successful presentation. Below are a few that we recommend checking out if you or people within your organisation are looking to deliver effective presentations in any form!

Presentation Skills E-Learning

Presentation Skills

Business Presentations

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