Know Your Audience

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies. Case in point: I’ve been working with a highly accomplished IT manager, who’s an expert in her field. She’s smart! She manages large, highly technical complex projects. When she makes presentations to colleagues, with similar technical backgrounds, she tells me they have no trouble understanding her. Yet, when she presents to people, who don’t share her technical expertise, she runs into roadblocks. This non-technical audience is often confused and frustrated, by her presentations.

You’d think she’d realize that she needed to tailor her presentations accordingly, to meet her audience’s needs. But, as I said, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. At first, she resisted acknowledging that there was a problem. She didn’t seem to accept that her audience of project stakeholders and administrators, who are not technical experts, could not easily grasp the material she was presenting. And she was reluctant to change.

But here’s a fundamental truth. Great presenters do adapt, in order to reach each audience they address. It doesn’t necessarily mean they create a brand new presentation for each audience. However, it does mean carefully customizing a presentation according to their audience. Great presenters must know their audience! They know what their audiences might not understand. They find ways to accommodate their audience’s knowledge, to meet their needs. It’s the reason I highly recommend following these three practices when preparing presentations.

Three Practices for Knowing Your Audience

1. Analyze:

Investigate and research your audience before creating or finalizing the presentation. Doing so will help you figure out what the audience knows and what they don’t know, and what they want from your presentation. Ask yourself why the audience needs your presentation, and what problems you are helping them solve.

2. Strategize:

Once you figure out your audience’s needs, think about how best to fulfill them. Some audiences require more visuals than others. Some audiences need a highly interactive presentation. Whatever the case may be, a presentation should incorporate strategies that will best connect with the specific audience.

3. Empathize:

A good presentation isn’t just one that provides information and has slick slides, or an impressive looking report. A good presentation is one that always seeks to relate to other human beings. Great presenters embrace the fact that a presentation is first and foremost for the audience. In other words: It’s not about you, it’s about them!

I recommend taking a look at Richard Atkins’ “Know Your Audience,”’s “Benefits of Understanding Your Audience,” and Changing Minds’ “Know Your Audience,” for more ideas.

And of course, be sure to contact The Language Lab for help with making your business presentations better and more audience-focused. You can reach us at The Language Lab.

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