28/09/2011

Then tailor your presentation content to suit your audience.

By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ

A “one size fits all” approach may be appealing when we are pressed for time but it seldom produces the kind of results you want.

Recently I was listening to a presentation about Linkedin. The audience were a group of small business owners and sole traders. I suspected that the presenter had previously given the talk before to a completely different audience and had not bothered to tailor it to this particular group. My fears proved true when, half way through, he started to talk about how he was very selective about who he connected with and was only looking for senior executives in serious large corporations.

He suddenly realized that he was effectively putting down everyone in his audience and so he tried to retract his statement. This rather clumsy approach only served to further alienate most of the people in the room.

When preparing your presentation, make sure you do your homework. Find out the answers to these questions:

• Who are your audience?

• What is their experience in relation to your presentation topic?

• What is their background?

• What are they looking for?

• What is their starting attitude?

There are lots of different ways to find out this vital information out and the simplest is to contact a few of the audience and ask them! They will be flattered that you sought their opinion and will be delighted to help.

If you can’t ask them directly, you can always try asking other people who know the likely audience members well or even research them on the internet.

The more important the presentation the more valuable your research is likely to be.

Having done your research you can then adapt your material to suit. Here are three examples of the sort of things you might consider doing to tailor your presentation.

• Use case studies or examples that relate as closely as possible to your audience makeup

• Avoid jargon and abbreviations that are unfamiliar to your audience or at least explain them clearly the first time that they are used

• Build rapport by demonstrating empathy with them for where they are in relation to your topic before offering an alternative viewpoint

Gavin Meikle is the owner of inter-activ learning and development, a Southampton based consultancy specialising in effective face to face interpersonal communication and presentations. He can be contacted at gmeikle@inter-activ.co.uk or by phone on 07810 645309.

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