Imagine a town-hall type meeting where thousands of employees are attending in person or through online video conferencing. Everyone in the audience is aware of numerous rumors going around regarding company restructuring.
The presenter starts by listing subjects he is going to cover and amongst the list is a bullet point that simply states, “rumors.”
Almost immediately, he jumps into discussion on the rumors addressing them one after the other. He speaks briefly on the ones that are unfounded and gives details on the ones that hold some truth.
What strategy did this presenter use to succeed? He analyzed his audience and knew that most people would have heard about the news media discussing numerous changes that were apparently going to happen. He made a decision to address the rumors head-on. By addressing them at the beginning of his presentation, he was able to capture his audience’s attention right from the start and address their concerns.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF TO HELP CUSTOMIZE YOUR PRESENTATION
- What major happenings, needs, or concerns are on the minds of the audience members? Is the subject matter appropriate for the occasion and the audience?
- What is the theme of the meeting?
- What is the purpose of the presentation? Is it to inform or educate? Is it to convince people to accept your proposal, or to brainstorm with them to find a solution?
- What is the audience’s level of understanding of the information you are going to present? It is crucial that you provide information your audience will understand. Present it at a depth that will interest them. For example, when presenting to upper management on a technical subject, make sure the information is not overly detailed. They may be more interested in the big picture, although you may want to have the detailed backup information available if they ask for it. If they only have a basic understanding of the subject you are to present on, make sure you do not use technical jargon or acronyms, or you can lose the audience. It can be beneficial to use analogies to simplify complex information.
- Does this subject matter have the potential for conflict?
- Have you or someone else presented on this before, and if so, what was the reaction?
- What information or topics should I stay away from?
- What local characteristics could be incorporated into your presentation to lighten it up at the beginning (sports team, meeting location, etc.)? This can help diffuse tension at the beginning of a presentation and can also help you build a bond with the audience. This is also an opportunity to incorporate humor.
- What has been going on in the industry or company in the last year?
- Will the audience have an opinion on the subject? Could there be a negative emotional response that could disrupt your presentation, causing people to go off on a tangent and eat up your allotted time?
- Will there be any other presenters before you who induce conflict that might have an impact on your presentation?
- Would humor be appropriate? I strongly recommend incorporating humor or other light-hearted material into your presentation to keep the audience’s attention and to also help audience members remember the information. Before using humor, however, ask yourself if the humor is relevant to your presentation and appropriate for the audience and occasion.
- Will some audience members not be fluent in the language you are presenting in? Speak clearly and avoid slang and acronyms.
- What types of jobs do audience members have?
- Will there be any special guests or dignitaries?
- What is the dress code? (I like to dress slightly better than the audience to help me build credibility. Your image as a presenter is important.)