Ultimately, the goal of the speaker is to connect with the audience.
We often see speakers who seem to be completely engaged in their own presentation – and not the audience.
Remember, it’s all about the audience!
How do we connect better with an audience? Find out about your audience from whoever has asked your to speak. If you can, find out some of the following:
Presenting to a crowd of elderly citizens is different to talking to twelve year olds. How old is your audience? Tailor your material differently if you find out your audience is younger or older. You may have references in there to unfamiliar technology. Or you may be referencing someone they don’t know.
Familiarity with your subject
Are you speaking to people who know your topic? Or are they complete novices? If they’re new to what you’re saying, then you need to start slowly and build up their knowledge. Take a look at my blog about complexity for more information.
Men or women? Or possibly the audience has people who don’t identify as either. If your material is full of ‘male’ or ‘female’ oriented references, then you may want to revisit how you present this.
Rich or poor? Or middle class? How will they react when you speak about someone growing up in the ghetto? How will they react to a ‘rags to riches’ story? Do they have preconceived ideas about money that you need to address? A few words about money perception can completely change the audience’s view of what you say later.
Finally, are there any taboo subjects that you should not mention? Is there something in your material that, through no fault of your own, could get the audience offside? For example, should you not mention a particular local identity because they’ve recently fallen out of favor?
If you have a joke in your material about hot air balloons, should you not tell it because someone in the organisation was recently harmed in a hot air balloon accident?
Religious or political affiliations
What’s that old saying? Don’t talk about religion or politics? These are often contentious issues. People have strong views about their beliefs. Sometimes you can’t avoid discussing these subjects, but try to be sensitive in how you do this. If you need to be contentious, sometimes you’re better off meeting the topic head on and dealing with the audience’s main objection.
Ultimately, forewarned is forearmed. Check with the venue beforehand. Find out everything you can. The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll connect with them.