It can be daunting, if you’re used to delivering to the same audience frequently, to suddenly be told you’ve got to present to an entirely new one. You’re used to your audience; they may even be your own internal team. You know what they want, you know what they expect, and you know how to get them to do what you want them to do. You’re all comfortable with the situation, and everyone gets something positive out of the presentation. But what do you do if you’re suddenly asked to present to a completely different audience? Maybe you’ve moved teams; maybe you’ve been promoted; maybe you’ve been suddenly asked to deliver the company presentation externally. Whatever it is, suddenly you’re way out of your comfort zone, and you realise with an impending sense of dread that you have no idea what this audience will appreciate. So where do you start? How can you go about impressing an audience you don’t know?
The first thing to do is find out as much as you possibly can about your audience. Do you know who’ll be in the room? Are they all from the same company or industry? What concerns do they have? Has anything relevant been in the news recently? Generally, whoever set up the presentation will be happy to help. If they’ve arranged this for you, they’ll want the presentation to go well for both parties. In fact, in some situations, they’ll probably be almost as nervous as you about its success. If you’re presenting at a conference, ask the event organiser to give you a breakdown of the demographic. Who are they expecting to attend? Who else is presenting? What sort of information do they want to receive? What types of talks have been successful in the past? Any information they can give you will be useful, and will enable you to tailor your content appropriately. In smaller settings, you should be able to get your hands on even more information. In a sales setting, your champion will be able to tell you about the decision maker. They’ll want you to impress– they’ve arranged the meeting, after all – so they should be happy to help you in any way they can. If you’re presenting internally, speak to whoever arranged the meeting to see what exactly is expected of you. It’s in everyone’s best interests for you to do well, so you shouldn’t meet much resistance.
Now think about your presentation objectives. What do you want your audience to do and think at the end of your presentation? Maybe you’re delivering a training presentation, and want them to remember some key points that they need to be legally compliant with workplace regulations. Maybe it’s your first meeting with a new prospect, and they want to hear your pitch before you take conversations further. Whatever the situation, there’ll be specific things you want to achieve with your presentation, and you absolutely must take these into consideration when you begin planning.
Use the information you obtained from your research to make your key messages relevant to them. Has your prospect’s competitor just gone suffered a legal setback? Show how your solution is legally compliant. Do your trainees need a certain qualification in order to progress to the next level of their career? Explain how the points you address will benefit them as they progress up the career ladder. Even simple things like mentioning the names of key audience members – particularly if you really want them to pay attention – can have a positive impact on their engagement levels. If you’re presenting to one company, use their logo on your slides to reinforce your message. Really, you can’t be too relevant, and the more information you have, the better. And then, of course, make sure you make the most of that information. Knowledge is power. Use it.