to Z of Effective Presentations
the letter "A" this issue looks at Assumptions and Audience..
A is for Assumptions
Assumptions are always dangerous, in life, in business and in
presentations. It is far better to find out the truth before
hand than base your presentation on assumptions.
technical presentations, in particular, do not assume that
everyone in your audience will understand the technical terms,
jargons and TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviation) that you may be
tempted to use. It is often surprising how one term which you
take for granted within the office, is not clearly understood by
other hand do not assume your audience know nothing, as you may
end up talking down to them which is a real turn off. As I
discuss in the next section, the more you know and the less you
assume about your audience the better the presentation will be.
A is for Audience
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.
you know about your audience the better.
How many people are you expecting?
How senior are they? Is there a mixture?
Is there a predominance of men or women?
Are they management or workers?
What are they interested in?
Why have they turned up?
What are their objectives?
What's in it for them?
Think about what they want to hear, not what you have to tell.
Think about why they are listening, not why you are talking.
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.
Try to talk to as many of the audience as you can beforehand, if
you have the opportunity. 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 rely on your
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
Your audience want you to give a truly inspired presentation;
they do not want to be bored to sleep. Take this as a licence
to be enthusiastic, entertaining and empowering, as that is what
most audiences want from a presenter. From the very start,
they are on your side and this is your opportunity not to lose
There will be some new "B" in the next newsletter.