How can you connect to your audience if you know nothing about them? The truth is, you can’t. You must use every tool in your arsenal to know as much as you can about the people you are speaking to.
To put on a great presentation you have to get your audience on your side. This requires confidence, but not too much! It takes information, but what kind? It requires you to listen, but to what?
Here are five winning tips to that most important first step in any great presentation: knowing your audience.
1. Do Your Homework
Obviously, knowing more about your audience is great. Knowing sooner, it better. Try to find out all you can about your audience before you start working on your presentation. A good journalist will understand the audience of a publication before he writes an article, and the same goes for presenting. How many people will be in the audience? Can you find any demographic information? How big is the room itself and how is it laid out? Everything you know in advance will help you to create a knockout presentation.
2. Get Personal
If you can, spend some time meeting and greeting with your audience before your presentation. Who organized this event? Who is the boss? Being able to connect to important audience members – who everyone knows by name – will give you legitimacy and create rapport with the group as a whole. Making a humorous, self-effacing remark that connects you to a familiar figure in your audience is always a great way to start a presentation.
3. The Old Milton Berle Technique
Milton Berle – the classic one-liner comedian – used to open up his public appearances with a handful of diverse material. In the first few minutes of a routine he could test the waters and know if his audience wanted to hear silly plays on words, topical humor, political jabs or dark blue raunchiness. For presenters, a series of probing questions can be a great way to engage the audience right from the start. It can also give you all the insight you need to deliver a pitch-perfect presentation every time.
4. Know What They Know
You – of course – are an expert on your subject. But how much does your audience know? This is a crucial question that can make or break a presentation. No matter how slick and together you are, if you talk over everyone’s head, they’ll be baffled, not enthralled. On the other hand, if the audience is up to speed, they may find that your presentation is less-than-engaging. Knowing how much your audience knows about your subject can make or break your time on the stage.
5. Don’t Be A Star
No one likes a self-centered speaker, and nothing derails a good presentation faster than a presenter who is more interested in presenting themselves than their subject. You must be authoritative and confident when you step in front of a group of peers, but you must never be cocky or over-confident. One sure fire way to walk this fine line is to keep the focus on the material. It’s not about you. It’s about the presentation.
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