There’s a lot to consider before you give a presentation. You can spend days, weeks, or even longer preparing for one. But all the effort will be for naught if you fail to think about your audience.
Each audience is unique and requires specific preparation. Here’s what to think about when tailoring an existing presentation to a new audience.
How Many People Will Be There?
The size of an audience plays a role in how you should approach a presentation. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Speaking to a handful of people in your office conference room is going to go a lot differently than addressing an auditorium. How you present, however, doesn’t need to be totally turned on its head. Your level of engagement is what needs the most adjustment.
A small audience allows for a greater level of intimacy and conversation. If you’re used to giving your presentation in this format, you need to practice ways to speak to more people. Consider ways to accommodate the larger group. Rehearse the presentation to refine your pacing, annunciating, and physical movements. Bigger crowds are going to have different expectations and values as well. It’s wise to incorporate some entertaining elements if you’re addressing a large group.
Conversely, if you’re anticipating a major turnout, but not that many people show up, don’t panic. However, you also shouldn’t go about your presentation as if you’re delivering it to that larger crowd you were expecting. Pivot by seeking greater audience involvement and taking a more conversational tone.
What’s the Expertise Level of the Audience?
Let’s say you’re a climate scientist. You’re presenting your research to several groups over the next few months. It doesn’t make sense to say the exact same things to your peers, who are also highly knowledgeable in this topic, and during an open seminar at a local university.
One way to accommodate for this is by compiling all possible information into a single presentation that you’ll never actually deliver in that form. Then, take out parts that are too high- or low-level for your given audience.
What Format Is Appropriate for the Situation?
There are many kinds of presentations. You’ll likely want to alter your format based on the expectations of your audience. For example, it’s best to get right to the point when presenting data and analysis to team members in your office. Here, you want to be as direct and streamlined as possible. This isn’t the case, however, if you’re addressing people who you don’t know. They’ll want more showmanship, and some entertainment value.
Consider what tools will work best for addressing your audience. Polls and surveys are useful tools regardless of the presentation format. It’s easy to add this to a presentation with Poll Everywhere. You can integrate interactive polls, which are accessible through participants’ smart devices. These can be modified each time you speak to a new audience.
Is Attendance Voluntary or Mandatory?
The circumstances of what’s driving people to attend your presentation determines how you need to address them. Students at a high school assembly, or entry-level employees at an all-hands corporate meeting, aren’t going to be inherently interested in what you tell them. In situations like this, you need to work extra hard to make what you’re saying relevant. This is an essential part of all communication, but even more so when you’re trying to reach people who would rather be somewhere else.
How Can You Better Relate to Audience Members?
No matter your audience, you want to find ways to relate to them. But not all people will relate to the same things. A doctor going into detail about a complication related to a certain type of surgery might be interesting to others in their field. But this will be completely unrelatable to the general public. It’s important to find ways to tell stories that will connect with your audience.
Some people are natural-born presenters. They can get up in front of any crowd and deliver a great speech from the cuff. For the rest of us, it’s important to take some time to research an audience before giving a presentation.