One of the lessons learned from our many coaching sessions is this: don’t allow yourself to get complacent and think you can do the same old, same old as you plan your speaking engagements and media interviews.
Analyzing Your Audience
Speakers often go wrong by not doing a thorough audience analysis. They had delivered the presentation before and got careless. You can have all your talking points down pat, but if you’re not meeting the needs of your audience, you’ve failed as a presenter.
Every audience is different and every person in that audience has an ego needing to be nourished. That’s accomplished by giving them information that saves time and money, or helps improve their performance and make them better leaders.
Whether you’re planning a motivational talk at a major conference or speaking to a reporter, step back and review the reason(s) you’ve been asked to be in these situations. You might be leading a “pep rally” to motivate the sales force to get behind a new product offering or speaking by videoconference to leadership in offices around the world.
Know Their Background
When you’re scheduled to speak, you need to know:
- Who is in the audience?
- What are their titles?
- What are their information needs?
- Who do they report to?
- What do they already know about the topic? Do some know more than others?
- What is their mood – positive because they exceeded expectations or negative because they just experienced a downsizing?
- What ideas, feelings, or experiences do you share with them?
Once you’ve gotten a fix on the makeup of the audience, develop your content around the questions you think they would ask you. Make your talk about them. For example say, “You had a great year.” Or, “You all pulled together and now our team is stronger than ever.” Saying “you” acknowledges the audience individually and collectively.
If you don’t have time to personally conduct the audience analysis, delegate the task to someone you trust. That would have saved a recent situation in which a very senior executive at a financial services company thought she was going to be addressing a small group of executives in a conference room.
For starters, an assistant had given her misinformation about the location of the meeting, so she went to several conference rooms on different floors before locating the right one. Then she discovered that she was actually scheduled to speak by videoconference to executives in another office.
She was frustrated and exhausted before she even started speaking. She shifted gears quickly and knew her topic well but even that didn’t save the situation. There was no connection between her and the audience because the camera was set too far away from her and her talking points had been crafted for the small group she thought she would be addressing.
It was a very unsatisfying experience because she hadn’t been appropriately briefed and therefore did not come across as the leader she is. Don’t let that happen to you!
Understanding the Culture
It isn’t just enough to understand the specific information needs of your audience. It’s essential to understand the culture and how you’re going to fit in.
What is the dress code, for example? If you’re speaking before a group of corporate executives who always wear a blue serge suit and a rep tie, then you should be wearing something conservative, too.
If your audience is filled with Millennials in fresh pressed jeans and open collars, then you should dress more casually, too. Maybe not jeans, but clothing that’s in keeping with the culture while still making a statement about who you are.
The start of this new year is a good time to break the cycle of “same old, same old.” Ask yourself if you’ve grown a little complacent about doing the audience analysis and research for a dynamite speech or to nail a media interview. If yes, now is the perfect time to try something new.
When you know what your audience wants and then deliver on it, you’ll gain their respect and admiration as an authority worth listening to. We’d love to hear some of your “war stories” on this topic so please share them with us in the comment box.