Who is Sitting in Your Audience?
I was once asked to give a bride public speaking advice on her wedding day. I told her not to worry about the speech too much because in the grand scheme of time and space, none of this really mattered anyway.
Yeah, not what you want to tell someone on the biggest day of her life.
The lesson I learned that day is that you need to know your audience. I had given the same advice to many nervous public speakers in the past to try and help them minimize the pressure they were putting themselves under, and it worked like a charm. That day, the bride likely wanted to punch me out for basically telling her that her wedding day didn’t matter.
When you really want to connect with your audience, you have to be willing to put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What do they fear? What are their goals? What keeps them up at night? What are their challenges?
If you can successfully answer these questions, you can build a presentation that not only speaks to them, but also helps them. Knowing your audience helps you speak their language by including advice and stories they can relate to.
You wouldn’t tell a bunch of high school students how to prepare for retirement, but some speakers are practically doing just that when they don’t research their audience and don’t understand who they are talking to.
Your assignment: before your next presentation, find out who will be in the audience. Find out where they work, what they do, what positions they hold, what industries they are in, why they are attending, and what they hope to achieve by attending your presentation. If you find out most of your audience will be made up of entry-level sales professionals, your speech will be much different than if you were talking to an audience of CEOs. Put yourself in their position and try to answer the following questions:
What do they care about?
What do they fear?
What are their goals?
What keeps them up at night?
What are their challenges?
What do they want most?
Which problems will you solve for them?
How will you do this?
Assemble your talk in such a way that you weave in the answers to these questions while also telling stories from your own life or your experience with helping a customer/friend. For example, if an entry-level sales professional is afraid of not making their quarterly sales quota, you might share a story of a time when you feared not meeting a goal and how you were able to accomplish it anyway.
Knowing your audience is critical if you want to build a real connection with them. Your goal as the speaker is to show them you are someone they can trust so they will follow your advice and take action to create real change.
Next time, you’ll learn about the hidden power of using props in your presentations!
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