One way to reduce pre-presentation anxiety is to do your homework long before you develop your talk. It is imperative that you collect as much information about your audience as possible so you can deliver a powerful presentation guaranteed to be remembered.
Some speakers meet with a representative of the company, association, club or conference organizer far in advance to get their questions answered. Others send a short survey to be completed and returned before the talk. But what exactly should you ask? What are the need-to-know details about your audience? Here are the top 5 questions I ask before any presentation.
1. Who are my audience members?
This may seem very basic, and it is! But you would be surprised how many people forget to take this information into consideration when planning a talk or presentation. It’s important to keep in mind who your audience members are. Are they members of a certain community group? Colleagues from a certain organization? Individuals from different companies in the same industry? You can’t begin to design a powerful presentation without knowing this simple information.
2. How many people will be in the audience?
This is another basic question many people fail to ask. Of course you need to know how many people are attending your talk. It influences your speaking style and rate, your interaction with the attendees, the size and style of your visual aids as well as whether or not you might need a microphone. If you do need a microphone will it be stationary on a lectern, a hand mic or a clip mic? This may also dictate how you present your speech. It is important to know all these things beforehand so you don’t need to make adjustments on the spot.
3. What is the demographic make up of my audience?
It is important to know the age, sex, cultural background and education level of your audience members so that you can speak to them appropriately. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by offending people unknowingly.
4. What are the needs and expectations of my audience?
There are many reasons people attend talks, conferences, training programs and seminars – and not all the reasons have something to do with hearing the speaker! Some people are forced to attend by management, some are maybe just there to network with other attendees and others may have a genuine interest in learning from you and the things you have to say. Make sure that you have an idea of these dynamics before you present your talk. Find out why people are attending and what they want to hear or learn from you.
5. Where will I be speaking?
Think about how your audience will be seated. Will they be in a theater or a hotel ballroom? What type of chairs will they be sitting in? Will they be comfortable or should you include different activities or exercises in your talk that allow them to get out of their uncomfortable chairs? Will you be able to make eye contact with everyone? This is another important element of audience analysis that you should be sure to investigate.
The more you know about your audience, the more comfortable you will be able to feel as a speaker. Next time you are preparing a talk be sure to ask these five simple questions to ensure that you will please your audience and be invited to speak again and again! And remember, no two audiences are alike. Review these questions with every group you speak for even if you are delivering the same talk. There could be subtle changes you need to make to better suit a different group.