Undoubtedly, the most important part of any presentation is the audience. After all, without them you would just be standing talking to yourself, which is one of the first signs of madness.
The more you know about your audience the better.
- How many people are you expecting?
- How senior are they? Is there a mixture?
- Is there a predominance of men or women?
- Are they management or workers?
- What are they interested in?
- Why have they turned up?
- What are their objectives?
- What’s in it for them?
Think about what they want to hear, not what you have to tell.
Think about why they are listening, not why you are talking.
Are there any particular people in the audience who are more important to you than the others are? If so, make sure you give them lots of eye contact; it makes a difference, particularly with a smallish (up to 50 people) audience.
Try to talk to as many of the audience as you can beforehand, if you have the opportunity. That way you will have a better understanding of what they already know and what they are hoping to find out.
Certainly, if this is a sales presentation to a new prospect for your company, my recommendation is not to give a presentation at your first meeting. Arrange a pre-presentation meeting with one or two key contacts so you can discover as much as possible about their situation, their people and their needs, before you present. That way, you can tailor your presentation to suit them. Make the presentation more personal to the audience so that they become more involved.
If you are forced into giving a presentation at your first meeting and your main contact invites a few other people to sit in, make sure you know who they are and do not rely on your first impressions.
However, probably the most important thing to remember about your audience is that they want you to succeed. It is rare in business to business presentations for you to have a hostile audience. At a minimum, they have invested their time in being there to listen to you, and they may have invested in the cost of getting to the venue etc. Even if they have a grudge against you, the fact that they have come to listen means that they may be open to resolving that grudge and will be keen to hear what you have to say. In these situations, it really pays to know your audience and their expectations. Be honest with them and do not skirt round the issue; address it head on. But at the same time, avoid an argument with any one member of the audience. If you argue with one, you will be perceived as arguing with everyone, and your presentation will fail. It is better to keep arguments until after the presentation when you can talk one on one with your detractor.
Your audience want you to give a truly inspired presentation; they do not want to be bored to sleep. So from the very start, they should be on your side and this is your opportunity not to lose them.
Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training website.
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