The secret: Know your audience.
It’s amazing how many presenters don’t properly research their audience.
I often use the phrase “get under their skin.” In fact, it’s the title of one of the modules of my online presentations course, “Persuasive Presentations 2.0.” It’s so important, I dedicate one of eight modules to it alone.
Here’s why: If you understand your audience’s pain and can alleviate it, your chances of success go through the roof. By “pain,” I mean what’s really bothering them. What is their major concern in the area you’re addressing? Get “under their skin”— really understand them and their challenges. That allows you to deliver your solution more persuasively – targeted right to their areas on pain.
There are four specific areas I look at when I think about how I can ensure my success in any presentation situation. All of them have to do with my audience …
Here are four key areas to concentrate on along with questions you can ask yourself:
First, familiarity. How well versed are they in the problem or opportunity? Are they all at the same level, knowledge-wise? How much do they know about YOU?
If you find out that some audience members do not have the same knowledge as the rest, consider sending a document ahead of time to everyone so that they can all get “up to speed” before you start your presentation. That way, you won’t bore the knowledgeable ones or lose the members who haven’t the same appreciation of the facts.
Next, attitude. What’s their attitude towards you or your solution? Will your solution affect anyone directly or indirectly – their job perhaps, their responsibilities? Could it cause more work? Could it affect someone’s work in a negative way? You’ll get push-back is someone who’s a decision maker perceives that their “territory” might be negatively affected by your solution. Challenges like this need to be addressed before and during the presentation (and may require a “side conversation”).
Expectations. Does your audience expect a quick fix solution or a longer-term, far-reaching one? Are they expecting a solution you can’t possibly deliver?
I’ve spent many years in the corporate television field. I can’t tell you how many times early on I would put together a written presentation for a video and submit it without even having a discussion about the budget. It’s amazing how many people think a full length, broadcast-quality production can be put together for a couple of thousand dollars. It was a complete waste of time for the client and me. Now it’s a discussion that usually part of the first conversation – setting expectations.
Finally . . . perspective. How do they see the problem? Are they managers? Front line employees? Are they engineers or creatively inclined? If you focus on financial implications to a sales group, you’ll lose them. On the other hand, accountants want the facts. Being persuasive requires that you’re on the same wavelength as your audience.
Make sure you use their lingo so that they feel more comfortable with you. People buy from people like them – people they feel comfortable with.