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The Top 7 Ways to Investigate Your Audience

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One of the most difficult chasms presenters must cross is understanding their audience’s mindset. When you get people in a room (or in front of a screen), you want to make the conversation about them. Yet so often, we skip this type of preparation entirely. And it’s a bad idea. The truth is, investigating your audience is not typically difficult. It simply requires a thoughtful and deliberate dive into their world.   

Get a Clue

In order to make the conversation about your audience, you must first gather good intelligence. So get your Sherlock…or Matlock…or Miss Marple hat on, and consider these seven questions:

1. Who is your audience?

No really, WHO are they? Where are they from? Do you know them well? Will they appreciate some informal, personal chitchat? Or, are they straight to business? Are there any demographic details that will factor into their perception of your presentation?

2. What’s their specific role?

Are you presenting to the VPs of specific departments, or to a far-flung sales force? The level and purview of your audience will factor heavily into the level of detail you offer. Senior-level people tend to want LESS detail and a bigger picture. On the other hand, more junior-level people might be happy to pour over granular information.

3. What do they need?

This is perhaps the most crucial part of your sleuthing. The people you are facing ALL have needs of their own. Can you identify precisely how you are addressing their wishes? Does the CEO have an earnings call coming up? Will the HR manager be affected by a proposed growth strategy? Think thoroughly about how your talk will be interpreted by everyone in the crowd.

4. What is their attitude towards the topic?

Try to predict – prior to your presentation – how people will react to your report, proposal, or data findings. Have you presented something like this to them (or others like them who have served in their specific capacity) before? Take some time to consider how you might avoid surprises while you are under the spotlight.

5. What’s their prior knowledge of your topic?

THIS IS BIG. HUGE. Like, do not overlook this question. There is nothing more irritating to busy executives than having to sit through overly-detailed reviews, or finance reports filled with minutiae, or any particulars they already know (or don’t need to know.) Sure, be prepared to review extra details if they ask, but always consider how you can enter the conversation at a higher level, to keep moving the conversation forward. 

6. What environment will you be presenting in

Are you setting up for a face-to-face meeting or virtual? Will this be a small group or a large crowd? These factors are important because each of these scenarios will affect how easily it will be for you to interact – and get real-time feedback – from your crowd.

7. What BIG Idea do you want them to take away? 

There is no understating how important it is to have a goal for every conversation. Can you envision exactly what you want this audience will leave with? Would you like to influence a specific decision they are about to make? Are you showing them a forecast that will determine a multitude of new strategies? What specific call to action do you have for this particular audience?

Keep in mind your investigative audience work should happen before you even think about developing any slide. First, summon your inner bloodhound to sniff out and identify the needs, motivations, and desires of the audience you are about to face.   

For information about how you can learn to be a great detective and storyteller, check out TPC’s corporate storytelling workshop here.

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