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Who is Your Audience? Did You Bother to Check?

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Presenter Tip - Be the Right Speaker for the Audience
Know your audience

Who is your audience?

© Ryan McVay/Lifesize

When You are an Audience Member

Have you ever attended a presentation where the speaker talked way over your head -- using words, acronyms and specific lingo for that industry? If you were the new kid on the block who was just getting his/her feet wet on this subject, this would not only be overwhelming but discouraging.

Conversely, if you were very experienced in this topic and the speaker used very condescending language, (because he knows it all and you don't), you would get little out of this presentation -- other than perhaps a need to tell that speaker a thing or two.

Related Article -10 Tips on Becoming a Better Presenter

The Right Words for the Right Audience

One of the key components in getting ready for a presentation, is to research the audience prior to even writing out that first word.

  • If your audience will be very knowledgeable in this topic, then use the current industry jargon where necessary, but certainly do not overdo it.
  • If the audience is fairly new to this topic, use language appropriately for that situation, but there is no need to oversimplify.
  • If your audience is a mixed group -- veterans and newbies -- then combine a little of everything, so that no one in the group feels that they came to the wrong presentation.
  • Always meet the needs of today's audience. They could well be a very different crowd than yesterday's audience.
Related Article - Audience Analysis is an Important Tool for Presentations

What Information Do You Need to Know About the Audience?

Several of these suggestions will apply to your presentation. In fact, you may need to create more than one presentation on the same topic. Perhaps you are speaking over a two or three day period to audiences of different skills or knowledge levels, for instance.

  • What is the age group?
  • What is the skill or knowledge level?
  • What is the cultural status of the audience?
  • Does the locale play a part in your presentation?
  • Did they come from far and wide to hear you speak or is this a local group?
  • Is your audience comprised of the decision makers or the "doers" in the company?
  • Are there competitors for your concept or product in the room, to check out what you have to offer?
  • Is your audience wealthy, poor or middle income and does it even matter?
  • Is this a presentation for children, students or business clientele?
  • Does the audience want to be there?
  • What does the audience hope to learn or achieve from attending? Check out what promises were made in the literature offered about your presentation.

The above notes are just a few ideas to consider when researching the potential audience. You will certainly come up with more on your own.

Related Article - Create Effective and Successful Business Presentaitons

Avoid Having an Eye Rolling Audience

Once you have identified your audience, tailor the language of your presentation to that group. As noted already, you may need to make several versions of the same presentation -- varying slightly to be directed to the right crowd. On that note, I don't think it can be stressed enough to avoid the current "buzzwords" -- either for your topic or for the audience.

Some example words to avoid -- or -- let the eye rolling begin:

  • cash-neutral
  • outside the box
  • paradigm shift
  • push the envelope
  • win-win
  • empowered
  • ramp up
  • and my personal least favorite buzzword phrase -- low-hanging fruit
I'm sure you could come up with dozens more, but you get the message. Don't be the "run-of-the-mill" presenter who recites the latest lingo. Simply speak to your audience in the language they understand, using plain and simple words. It could not be easier.

One last tip - If you are providing handouts for the audience, make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes.

Next - Four Parts of a Successful Presentation

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