One of the prominent themes in Public Speaking courses is the idea of “know your audience.” It is typically shared as a means to help you connect with–and identity with–your audience. Are they engineers? Scientists? Sales professionals? Mostly female? Male? Long-tenured employees, or new hires, etc. I’d like to propose another layer of understanding your audience—one which can help you to better connect with, and engage, your audience from the beginning—one that attempts to get in their heads a bit more.
Once you know who the audience members are—30,000 ft view—it is helpful to begin to think about how they feel about things. Here are a few questions to consider when preparing to be in front of the group:
* What might they need from me?
* What fears or concerns might be on their minds?
* What biases might they have that could cloud their ability to hear my message?
* What is at stake for them in regards to my ideas/changes? What might they want to protect?
* What might a successful outcome of my presentation look like from their point-of-view?
Of course, answering the following question is key, as well: What is the purpose or point of my presentation? When I finish my delivery, what do I want the audience to be feeling, thinking…or willing to do as a result of my presentation?
The more clear you are on your answers to the questions above, the more able you will be to craft an Opening and content that will resonate with the audience, and minimize mental distractions on their part. Your audience will thank you…