Undoubtedly, the most important part of any presentation is the audience. After all, without them you would just be standing talking to yourself, which is one of the first signs of madness.
The more you know about your audience the better.
Think about what they want to hear, not what you have to tell. Think about why they are listening, not why you are talking.
Too many presentations are about the speaker's company and their products and services. If you give a presentation about your company and your products and your services, you will bore your audience to death!
What you should do is talk about how your company and it's products and services will help members of your audience. How it will make their lives better. Why their lives will be improved by your products and services. For every feature of your product or service that you mention tell them what the benefit will be to them. never mention a feature without a benefit.
Are there any particular people in the audience who are more important to you than the others are? If so, make sure you give them lots of eye contact; it makes a difference, particularly with a smallish (up to 50 people) audience. But at the same time don't ignore anyone. even if they are not decision makers they are still likely to have input into the final decision after the presentation.
If you have the opportunity, try to talk to as many of the audience as you can beforehand. That way you will have a better understanding of what they already know and what they are hoping to find out.
Certainly, if this is a sales presentation to a new prospect for your company, my recommendation is not to give a presentation at your first meeting. Arrange a pre-presentation meeting with one or two key contacts so you can discover as much as possible about their situation, their people and their needs, before you present. That way, you can tailor your presentation to suit them. Make the presentation more personal to the audience so that they become more involved.
If you are forced into giving a presentation at your first meeting and your main contact invites a few other people to sit in, make sure you know who they are and do not just rely on your first impressions. I remember one sales presentation I gave, just before I was about to start an older gentlemen in a well-worn, rather crumpled suit came in and sat at the back. I did not pay him much attention. It was only afterwards that I found out that he was the MD of the company and had the final say on the purchase. Despite being mainly ignored during the presentation, Iím happy to say that on this occasion the company did actually buy from us but it could have easily gone the other way.
However, probably the most important thing to remember about your
audience is that they want you to succeed. It is rare in business to
business presentations for you to have a hostile audience. At a
minimum, they have invested their time in being there to listen to
you, and they may have invested in the cost of getting to the venue
etc. Even if they have a grudge against you, the fact that they have
come to listen means that they may be open to resolving that grudge
and will be keen to hear what you have to say. In these situations,
it really pays to know your audience and their expectations. Be
honest with them and do not skirt round the issue; address it head
on. But at the same time, avoid an argument with any one member of
the audience. If you argue with one, you will be perceived as
arguing with everyone, and your presentation will fail. It is better
to keep arguments until after the presentation when you can talk one
on one with your detractor.
Your audience want you to give a truly inspired presentation, they do not want to be bored to sleep. So from the very start, they should be on your side and this is your opportunity not to lose them.
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