Presentation Checklist: Audience Matters

Next week, I will make two 15 minute presentations and in four weeks, I will make a 30 minute presentation and also preside at a big meeting. The latter engagement is an annual event and I knew well in advance of my obligation, but requests for the first two talks came up unexpectedly. Fortunately, I have time to prepare for all. Here’s how I’ll get ready to stand and deliver:

Who’s in the house and what do they want to know?

All presentations are ruled by the audience and the information that is desired. That information is the purpose of your talk and it determines what you’ll present. Find out also if any stakeholders whom you must persuade will be unable to attend and arrange to follow-up with them personally, if possible.

Hecklers and haters

While researching your talk, ask the organizer if anyone in the audience might have a reason to undermine your objective and why that would be so. To neutralize expected opposition, acknowledge somewhere in the solutions section of your talk that some in the audience may have considered another recipe for resolution and state how your approach will likely be more effective, sustainable over the long term, easier or less expensive to implement, or whatever. Handle the matter like a sales objection, because that’s what it is.

Audience size

The size of the audience guides your method of presentation. An audience of five is intimate and calls for a different approach —most likely more relaxed and personal— than an audience of 50. A larger audience often requires that the speaker use visuals, along with a speaking style and pacing that engages a bigger room.

Does the audience know you?

Friends in the house will make your job easier because you will feel more comfortable standing in front of them. If you are mostly an unknown quantity, it’s important to establish rapport with the audience early in the talk. A statement about how you understand or empathize with a priority or concern is a good ice-breaker and gives you credibility, since you agree with them.

What do you want audience members to do post-presentation?

Design your presentation to frame your call to action as logical, effective, beneficial and inevitable. Describe what you would like audience members, in particular the thought-leaders and decision-makers, to do on your behalf. Do you want them to donate money or time? Approve your proposal? Vote in a certain way? If you are able to make fulfilling your call to action easier for them, then do so.

Thanks for reading,



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