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February 23, 2010 / marden928

If content is king, then your audience is its emperor

You pull together all of your best analysis.  You ensure that all of your data is rendered the right way.  Labels correct, etc.  You spend HOURS upon HOURS on your storyline.  You write up your speakers notes and actually practice your content (wish more folks did).   Then the day of your presentation comes and…you totally bomb.  Your audience attacks you halfway through your presentation.  You’re understandably crushed – you did put a lot of work into your presentation after all.

And so, darting up in the middle of the night, sweat pouring down your face, you wonder to yourself “WHY, OH WHY DID MY PRESENTATION FAIL”    Simple:  You forgot to analyze your audience.

Not that self expression and content aren’t important.  Content is the king after all, but remember, if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, you’ve failed.  They won’t sign on to your plan, grant you that job you’re hoping for, think of you as your industry expert, or any other goal you’ve had.  In fact, you may have distracted them or offended them if you didn’t take them into account. Which is why I think that audience analysis can be more important than clear expression of content.  So let’s grant them the empire – audience is emperor!

Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, duh, Martha.  Tell me something I don’t know!  How about give me some *&#& tips, why don’t you?”  OK, I will 🙂

  • Get your content right in the first place. Do not be afraid to ask your presentation content questions about what they already know (they don’t want to hear something they already know) and what they want from you (confirmation of what they know?  something new? used to seeing certain frameworks?).  Get on the internet and look at investor presentations, news articles and anything else that you think can help you form your problem statement.  Showing up with irrelevant content can turn your audience into a bunch of eye rollers.  Ack!
  • Find out your audience’s visual preferences. Do they like lots of color?  Are they used to lots of photographs?  Illustrations? Animation? Do they like a lot of detail ala old school Bill Gates or clean and simple ala Steve Jobs?  Is there a presentation that they’ve mentioned that they think is the bees knees?  Go look at it!
  • Know your presenting dimensions. How much time do you have?  How big is the room?  How many people are going to be in there?  Only online?  (need to make your presentation interactive so you don’t loose your audience to email checking) How old are they (are they near-sighted?  if someone in the room is over 45, assume yes for some).  Will you only be presenting on-screen, via  (or only printed documents?  Plan your visuals accordingly (and get that extra text off the page and into your speakers notes – you want to avoid squintsville!  Up your font!)
  • Know the culture. As stated in a previous post, color can be a joiner and a divider – do not show up with a blue presentation to Coke (or red to Pepsi).  You probably want to make sure you’re not using pictures of dogs when presenting to a group of cat veterinarians, etc.  You can find these out by asking your presentation content.  Go the extra mile and chat with a few attendees, if possible.
  • Know about their desire for interactivity. What kind of learners are they?  Are they used to doing lots of physical activities?  Do they prefer to break out into groups?  Do they like props to play with?  Do they like to be part of the conversation?  Do they prefer a lecture format?   This is one that can really make it or break it for you – if you have a room full of people that only learn by doing, they will be bored stiff with a lecture and possibly tune you out.

Hopefully you’ll go through this check list when you scope your presentation in the first place – before the storyline and extra analysis.  It will save you lots of time later, and will hopefully ensure a huge connection between you and your audience.  And a better night’s sleep.

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