Let’s talk about your specific audience. What are their expectations and what do they hope to get out of your presentation? How does the audience perceive you? Will it be a relaxed or hostile atmosphere? In other words, will the people you are presenting to be on your side regardless of what you have to say or is this going to be a tough crowd that will fight you tooth and nail? Are you speaking to a group that has to be there or have they chosen to come and listen to you? It is your audience who dictates the type of talk you will be giving, the level at which to pitch it, and the language that you should use.
In should come as no surprise that audiences will actively listen for longer periods of time if the topic you are presenting is important to them. But what many speakers seem to forget is that if you view the topic as important, chances are the audience will, as well. It’s much easier to convince an audience that your topic is important and relevant when you give them compelling reasons to listen, and you speak in a language and tone that they are comfortable with, and you tell stories and use examples that they can relate to and understand.
If the audience is not there by choice, you need to get them engaged as quickly as possible. Show them how your topic is relevant and convince them why they should care. Establish emotional bonds and shared objectives while looking for common ground. The most successful speakers will tell a story and let it take root so that the audience can carefully consider the position. They know that nothing is more powerful than having the audience draw their own conclusions as to why this topic is worthy. On the other hand, if you know that your audience is behind you and that your presentation is going to be a meaningful experience right from the start, you can really delve in and explore the details.
Another thing to consider is this: is the topic you are presenting fairly technical or complex? If so, you need to decipher how much your audience understands. If you provide content and detail that they already know, you run the risk of boring them and having them leave feeling as if they haven’t gained a thing. But if the topic is over their heads and you don’t provide enough detail and explanation, you may completely lose them. Do your homework before you begin preparing your presentation. If, for some reason, you don’t know how knowledgeable your audience is before you prepare and present, it’s perfectly acceptable to gauge the level of your audience by simply asking some questions upfront. Be flexible and find the best level to speak to the group as a whole.
Once you have a handle on how the audience is going to perceive you, you’re in a better position to deliver what needs to be said. You’ll have a better idea of how long you should speak and how much content you need to include and you can begin to put together stories, examples and anecdotes to illustrate your thoughts. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the audience to determine what they need to hear from you next. Here are things to look for to know if you’re on the right track:
If you’re serious about advancing your skills and making an investment in yourself, we invite you to our Excellence in Speaking Institute. Classes are back in person and filling up quickly so don’t delay! Visit this page to read feedback from our graduates about their experience.