When you have a presentation to make, it's tempting to ask yourself right away,
"What am I going to say? How much information can I fit into the allotted
time? Which visuals should I use?" So, you may immediately dive into the
process of selecting material, developing an outline, creating slides and rehearsing
content. Although these steps are important, you risk heading off in the wrong
direction unless you first consider the most important element of your presentation
As an effective presenter, your first step toward making a powerful, persuasive
presentation is to define your audience. Who are your listeners and what are
their needs? To begin your preparation without this information could mean your
time and effort and the audience's are spent in vain. By defining
your audience, you lay the foundation for a successful presentation, increase
the likelihood of influencing your audience and get the results you want.
|Benefits of Defining
As a result of defining your audience, you are able to:
||identify what motivates your listeners to act
||tailor your content to give them specifically
what they want, need and expect
||project an appropriate presentation style and
||increase your comfort level as a speaker
||obtain your objective for making the presentation
Defining your audience means finding out who they are. This information is
crucial in order to address audience members' needs, interests, expectations
and levels of understanding. Without this knowledge, you are unable to match
your message with their needs. Your ability to present from their perspective
enables you to influence their thinking, persuade them to accept what you are
suggesting and achieve your goal for making the presentation.
The following questions serve as a helpful guide for defining the people of
What are their professional
roles, titles and responsibilities?
What are their goals and priorities?
What motivates these people to act? To buy?
What's your relationship to them? And their relationship to you?
What are they expecting from you?
How many people will be present?
What's their motive for listening?
What do they need to be more successful?
What are pertinent facts, figures and trends of their industry?
How much do they already know about your subject? Your company?
What are the demographics of the audience? (age range, education, socioeconomic
By asking these questions and customizing your presentation based upon the
answers, you show the participants that you know them and want the presentation
to benefit them. Audience knowledge is perhaps the most powerful tool of persuasion.
When your listeners know you have taken the time to understand them, you meet
a basic desire present in all human beings: to feel important and cared about.
The same advice Aristotle gave in 380 B.C. still holds today: "The fool
persuades me with his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own."
By defining your audience members and tailoring your message to specifically
address their reasons, wants and needs, you are able to deliver a presentation
that engages, informs and persuades. Show them that you know them and they will
gladly give you their time and attention and most likely their business.
About Darlene Price and John Messerschmitt
Darlene Price and John Messerschmitt
are co-founders of Well Said!, Inc., an Atlanta firm providing presentation-skills
training and professional presenters to over 50 Fortune 500 Companies. Their
workshop, "Presenting Success," trains business professionals how
to effectively develop and deliver powerful persuasive presentations. Contact
John and Darlene at 770.804.0770 or visit www.wellsaid.com.
1. Department of Defense Study,