When you're preparing a presentation to a group or conference, how do you choose what to say? If you tailor your speeches to the event, how are you information about your new audience?
Here are a couple of quick ways to keep your content fresh, and make the most of your preparation time.
1. Find the gems hiding in plain sight. Most organizations you'll be speaking with have abundant marketing materials online. Read what they say about themselves to understand your audience's culture.
- Are they forward-focused with action-based language ("Just Do It", "Think Different") or do they tell stories ("The road will never be the same", "There are some things that money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard")?
- Do they avoid negatives ("Never let 'em see you sweat", "A mind is a terrible thing to waste") or accentuate the positive ("Thrive", "Quality is job one")?
- Are they looking at their own experience ("We will sell no wine before its time", "We make money the old fashioned way. We earn it") or at someone else's experience ("This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs", "Where do you want to go today?")?
- Are they focused on the present ("Life’s messy. Clean it up!", "When you've got it, flaunt it!") or the potential ("Calgon, take me away", "Be all that you can be")?
- What sense do they speak from ("Mamma Mia, thatsa spicy meatball", "If you want to capture someone's attention, whisper", "It’s time for clarity")?
Using the same kind of language as your audience helps you speak directly into their culture and builds rapport from your very first word.
2. Ask useful questions and make use of the responses. You don't need fancy questions, though you can pull deep information from simple-seeming inquiry. Say you're giving a training for a new client. If you have the luxury of speaking with a company representative, try some of these questions out:
- Question: What other kind of training has your team been asking for?
Function: Unless the person you're talking to is focused on what's not working now or in the past, many people will open up quickly about what they'd like to be doing in the future. This gives you a window into current pain points or aspirations--either way, it's important to know what path the audience is walking. And how they're walking it.
- Question: Tell me about your most difficult members.
Function: The squeaky wheel lets you know so much more when you let it squeak for a while. There are structures within organizations that keep things going the "same" way which get vocal when "improvements" are in the air. Understanding the landscape into which you're planting new seeds is critical to providing appropriate solutions.
- Question: When you imagine the participants of this training out in the future, what's that like? What could possibly go wrong?
Function: Providing relevant content requires a clear understanding of where the organization wants to go, where it is now, and what obstacles it is currently aware of. This gives you a map of the present, future--and past experiences of the people you'll be presenting to.
3. Sort your findings in a way that helps you. Say you're presenting to an organization that uses action-based language and they speak about themselves in their messaging. It's a safe bet, you'll have a room full of people who want you to speak directly to them and they'll need to participate actively. Craft your presentation to have segments every couple of minutes that give this audience a chance to participate (ask questions like "Who has experienced something like this?", "What would you do in a situation like this?"), or command them to do something ("Think of a time...", "Run through this scenario in your head..."). A group that speaks about itself in narratives, and is focused on keeping their clients from experiencing something negative, will need a different approach. Stories may be critical to reaching this group--especially if your content is technical. Give them opportunities to imagine what could go wrong for their clients and you may find them more eager for your solutions.
These are things you're probably already doing--the suggestion here is to do these things consciously. Give yourself the experience of having a variety of responses to the needs and interests of your audience.