Thursday, October 13, 2011

Give your audience what it wants – and they will give you their support!

An audience is critical to your presentation. You need each other – they to gain information or ideas from you, and you to gain their support in order to achieve your purpose.  Thus, understanding and satisfying your audience’s expectations will determine your success as a presenter. In earlier blogs I introduced five employees whose upcoming presentations may have a similar purpose to yours. Let’s see how they, and you, can think about your audience in relation to your purpose.

Informers, present just the right amount of information

As yourself, “How much information and data is sufficient to support my purpose?” If you are updating your team, as Jose must do, consider exactly what pieces of information are critical.  Eliminate anything extraneous, as you don’t want to insult or bore people. On the other hand, give them enough facts, insights, and details to form an opinion or answer their questions.  Share your presentation ahead of time with trusted coworkers. If your coworkers find gaps, have questions, or are bored, your audience certainly will, too.

 Instructors, know your steps

If you, like Sue, need to instruct people on a process, make sure you have gone through the steps yourself. Several times!  Then try out your instructions on colleagues. Note any steps or processes where they are confused, ask questions, or don’t demonstrate proficiency.  Those places are where you need to factor in more time or add more instruction to your presentation.  Also, give colleagues your handouts/slides in advance, and have them critique your steps.  What have you left out? They will tell you.

Recommenders, anticipate the objections

If you, like Abdul, expect your recommendation to be accepted, make sure you anticipate the questions and objections that will derail your presentation.  Money, resources, and schedule are always issues.  How will you answer the “naysayers,” those folks who say it won’t work, or it’s too expensive, or no one will like it?  You need solid responses that are rooted in information. Practice aloud answer to their objections.  Remember, you are the expert, and so you should not be surprised by questions that you should have anticipated.

Interest sparkers, show them the vision

 Mei wants her audience to see the value of and support her new research idea. If your purpose is to spark interest, you need to show people a vision of what is possible. People need to believe in you/your idea if they are to follow you.  Help them see your vision, its value, and its benefits to them and to the organization.  Moreover, you’ve got to show excitement and passion in your delivery (more about delivery in later blogs). If your presentation is flat and dull, why would anyone believe you can achieve something new?

Evaluators, be balanced and complete

Your audience, like Tom’s, expects a fair and balanced evaluation of a project’s successes and failures.  While you certainly can choose aspects of the evaluation to highlight, a one-sided presentation will arouse suspicion and push back. Carefully plan how you will present the pros/cons or successes/failures. Make sure your deductions and recommendations arise out of the assessment you’ve given. We’ll talk more about organization styles in later blogs.

In summary, think hard about what your audience expects of you.  Of course they always expect honesty and clarity, and you’ll give them that – and more. Know what they want to hear and they will become allies in support of your purpose.

As always, I welcome your comments.
Jolinda Osborne