Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Audience
The most important participant in your presentation is your audience. But they’re also the most overlooked! Here are 7 things you didn’t know about your audience that probably hurt you.
- They hate it when you read to them! It’s the number one mistake made by people who don’t enjoy public speaking. They figure they’ll just read to the audience. Whether it’s PowerPoint slides, full speech text, or even the opening statement in a press conference, if you spend more time looking at the words than at your audience, when you do make eye contact, you’re guaranteed to be greeted by a big glazed over look!
- They love to be entertained. Most professionals spend an enormous amount of time reading reports, spreadsheets, briefs and other technical documents. While the content may be something they feel passionately about, the straightforward work does leave much to be desired. When they have the opportunity to have a presenter show them something, they appreciate a little showmanship in the delivery. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to study the latest tricks from David Copperfield, but it does mean that they want a little extra from you. They’re looking for anything that will make them smile, think, or respond.
- They’re highly judgmental. No disrespect to your audience, but they are looking at you with slight skepticism, and expecting you to either affirm their assumptions, or give them overwhelming evidence to disprove their assumptions. Failure to meet that expectation will make it easier for them to tune you out.
- They all listen to the same radio station. The universal station of WII-FM is what every audience member (be it one or 100) is listening to every time you open your mouth. That stands for What’s In It For Me! Sure you have an agenda, points you need to get across, and a goal you’re trying to reach, but if you aren’t putting your message within the context, in the appropriate jargon or lack thereof, and addressing their feelings about the subject, you have very little chance of being successful.
- They’re very forgiving. This is exceptionally important if you battle with speech anxiety. Most anxiety is born out of the fear that you may make a mistake and the audience will look at you negatively as a result. Other speakers stress out about whether they’re joke bombs, they’ll forget what they wanted to say, or make the audience upset with the news they’re about to deliver. All of these things may cause you to shake, have a quivering voice, or simply speak with less fluidity. The great news is that even though they may be judgmental and look on with skepticism, they’re no more comfortable in front of an audience than you, so if you do make an honest or simple mistake, they’ll forgive it, and even show you some compassion in hopes that you’ll make a smooth recovery!
- They have a short memory. People are inundated with information all day, from many sources. Which means as new information comes in, old data is pushed out. What that means to you, the speaker, is that you have to work harder to be memorable. You’ll need ways to get them involved, reaffirm your point, and tell a meaningful story that lasts long after you’ve left the spotlight. Bottom line, you need to “make it sexy.” Your words…not your appearance.
- They come and go often! This isn’t a literal statement. It actually applies to how they pay attention to you. With so many things on their minds, the average attention span of someone listening to you speak is less than 7 minutes long. If you aren’t interactive in your delivery, they may not even stay that long. Finding ways to re-engage your audience throughout your presentation is essential to making a lasting impact on your audience!
Whenever you’re planning to step in front of an audience of one or one thousand, remember to address each of these issues. Your ability to communicate and connect, affects whether your listeners will pay attention to you. You’ll improve effectiveness and your ability to be memorable.
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