Whenever you’re giving a presentation, you always want to ensure that your audience can relate to your words. The same speech given the night before that received standing ovations, could easily be met with jeers the next morning. This is based on one dominant factor, your audience. To get your message across, your audience has to be able relate to your presentation, and it’s up to you to make that happen. You have to tailor your presentation around them, even if your presentation wasn’t primarily intended for them.
1. Get To Know Your Audience
Seeing how you want to tailor your presentation to your audience, the audience is the most important factor in your presentation. This means that you must really know your audience. Think about why you’re presenting to them and what you want to get out of it. Still keep in mind that you must understand why the audience is there and what they want to get from your presentation. Here are a few questions to consider when getting to know your audience:
- What kind of audience will be there? What’s their age, occupation, industry field, educational background and experiences?
- What is the audience’s motivation for being there?
- What are they expecting, or why will they benefit, from listening to your presentation?
- Are they already familiar with the subject of your presentation?
- How many people will be attending?
- What kind of questions will most likely be asked?
- What do you want out of giving your presentation?
- What will your audience want to receive from your presentation?
2. Tailor Your Content, Style and Visuals Around Your Audience
Once you get to know your audience better, you’ll want to tailor your content, style and visuals around your audience. This means that if your audience is business oriented you’ll need a presentation that focuses on bottom line results; a scientific crowd is more suited towards a presentation that stresses details, with charts, graphs and diagrams to further illustrate points. Building your presentation around the type of audience you’ll be speaking to will effectively communicate your points to them.
Focus on your audience and think about your message to them.
What kind of message do you want to relay to your audience? Connect your answer with the objectives you’re presenting.
What does your audience want to know about your presentation? How will they benefit from listening?
Try to understand what things the audience could potentially get wrong unless you highlight the correct information to them.
The style of your presentation will be in the manner you deliver your presentation. Your style is highly important to your presentation, as it will be the first thing your audience will take notice of. Research studies have shown that your audience will judge your presentation on these 3 things, in this particular order: (1) how you look, (2) how you speak and (3) content.
To help balance out your style so that your audience doesn’t judge you too harshly on just one facet, here are some critical questions to ask yourself so that you choose the right style for your presentation.
What style of language should you use with your audience? (Technical, Business, Informative)
How formal do you intend to be with your audience?
How about your interaction with the audience?
How will you dress? Is your audience formal or casually dressed? Your appearance will either help or hinder the message you’re trying to convey.
Visual aids can definitely add impact to your presentation; that is if they’re needed. The right visuals, along with the right amount of visuals, will effectively communicate its message to the audience; while having too many visuals can only help with filling up time. Visual aids such as PowerPoint slides, enlarged photos, illustrations and images of objects must serve a real purpose in making sure that your points are precisely made and are clear to your audience. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when deciding if visual aids are helpful in getting your message across:
Will the visual aids add impact with your audience?
Does it help explain or understand an idea or subject you’re speaking about?
Will the visual aids help with an audience whose primary language is different from yours? (An English speaking person presenting to a Chinese audience)
If your answer is “no” to all three, don’t bother using any visual aids.
3. Start Confident and Remain Confident
Most times, having supreme confidence can carry your presentation, even if it’s a bad one. Basically, having confidence in whatever you’re speaking about goes a long way. Here are some tips to keep your confidence up during your entire presentation.
- Preparation will always have you super confident in whatever you do. The more prepared you are the more confident you’ll feel about your presentation. Be sure to rehearse and time your presentation and try to familiarize yourself with the equipment of the venue, in event that you would need to use it.
- The best presenters are always enthusiastic about their topic.
- Take deep breaths before you start your presentation.
- Give your presentation to someone out loud first. This will help you speak with the correct tone and pitch.
- Breathe throughout your presentation, take pauses, and sips of water if necessary.
- Try to rid yourself of excess energy by doing simple exercises prior to presenting.
- Look at your audience. This is the first form of audience engagement that they’ll recognize from you.
- Use anecdotal or humorous stories to start your presentation. This usually eases your audience with smiles, allowing everyone (including you) to relax.
- To help smooth out your presentation, have a single page of notes or note cards that can conveniently fit in the palm of your hand.
- Try to have your opening and closing sentences memorized.
- If you become lost half way into your presentation, don’t panic, take a moment to look at your notes to gather your placing. Find where you left off at, then restart your presentation at that place.
- If someone asks you a question that’s difficult to answer, don’t worry. Calmly explain to them that you don’t have the answer at the moment but that you can look into it and get back with them.
- Make sure that your conclusion has a strong ending.
4. Recognize the Time Of the Day You’re Giving Your Presentation
Having your presentation go perfectly can still not be enough, especially if you find yourself giving it at an unfriendly time of the day or at time when your audience has already been through a few presentations.
If you’re giving a presentation in the morning, most attendees will be alert with good energy, while giving a presentation in the afternoon or evening can be more problematic, with attendees showing signs of sluggishness or restlessness (even hecklers if alcohol is served).
Knowing if your presentation will be given in the early or later part of the day, can help you decide if you’ll need to have more energy and humor with your audience, or if you need to go with a straight-to-the-point approach.
5. Know The Venue That You’re Presenting In and Understand How It Shapes Your Interaction With Your Audience
Knowing what the venue will look like matters to your presentation, because it can decide how intimate and engaging you can become with your audience.
If you’re giving your presentation from a stage that is much higher than the crowd, you’ll have to do more to get your audience into your presentation, such as project your voice louder so that everyone feels engaged.
If you’re presenting to an audience at an eye level, you have a better chance of becoming more intimate with your audience.
Your audience’s interaction will be based off of their positioning and seating arrangement from you, and that can shape how observant or engaging they will be.
6. Humor Is Great To Use, But Make Sure You Use It Wisely
Invoking humor is a great way to warm up your audience to become more engaged, however too much of a good thing can go bad if not used with precise timing and discernment.
If you tell a few jokes that happen to garner a few laughs, leave it at that and transition into your main subject. The jokes that you do tell should be short, easy-to-understand, friendly and shouldn’t offend anyone.
7. Know Your Presentation Better Than You Know Yourself
If you know your presentation like the back of your hand, it just makes things easier when you decide to go in a different direction at the last minute or if something goes wrong.
Knowing your presentation can allow you to present it in various ways, whether you decide to go with a fixed approach or if you’re filled the spirit of spontaneity. When you know your presentation well enough, you can tailor things on the fly and your audience will be unaware of it, thinking that it was suited just for them all along.
Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Presentation Training Institute. She regularly produces content for a variety of communication and management blogs.