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If it's not about you, then who are they ?

March 13, 2010

Who are those guys, anyway?

A few posts back I said that starting a presentation needed to be done outside PowerPoint and began with a thinking step. I indicated that analysis step had three parts: audience, message, and content and I promised some hints on doing each. If I know “it’s not about me,” then the key part is the first one: the audience.  Here’s an outline of the questions I ask myself:

Number? How many of them will there be?
Who? Names, seniority level, background?
Knowledge? What do they know (or think they know) about my topic?
Expectations? What are their expectations of me and the presentation?
Details? What level of detail will they need to get the message across?
Pain? What’s their pain, i.e., what is their problem I can help with?
Why? Why do they care about my message?

Fundamentally, it comes down to the simple fact that the more you know about them, the better off you (and they) will be. It may need some legwork, but push to find out as much as possible.

One person, maybe two? You probably shouldn’t do slides on a screen. You want a conversation, so a desk-side with some printed material for illustrations or data may be best. If it’s a few people, you’re into the conference room presentation (the most common kind I do) you can, and should, still have a conversation of sorts, but you could do projected slides or sit around the table with printed material or a mix of both. Big group? Now you’re into the ballroom style presentation—you’ll need the projector but you can’t show really detailed stuff because they can’t see it.

Two flavors here: names and characteristics. Sometimes you won’t know names, but it helps if you can get them in advance. One key to consider here is knowing who the decision maker is and who the influencers are. Even if you don’t have names find out what you can (technical vs. non-technical, experienced/senior folks vs. junior, supporters vs. skeptics vs. opposition, etc). The more you can find out the better—going in blind is sometimes necessary but it’s scary and means you’ll have to prepare extra well.

Knowledge, Expectations & Details
These are closely related—as you think about “who,” think about where (mentally) they’re going to be as they walk in and where you want them to be when they leave.

Pain, Why
These are two aspects of the same thing… ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” That answer is a key piece as you plan everything else: the purpose, message and content of the presentation.

Bottom line is simply that you cannot give a really good presentation without carefully considering the audience. The more you know about them the better your chance of success.


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