Audience


It is important to know your audience. You need to take into account their knowledge, expectations, prejudices and so on in order to make the presentation as effective as possible. There are a few aspects that require your attention:

Knowledge
What does your audience already know about your topic? There is, of course, a major difference between talking to a group of experts or a group of laymen. You need to assess which information you need to provide to make the whole audience understand your presentation without telling them unnecessary details. If your information is not clear enough or too difficult, you audience will tune out because they cannot follow what you are saying. If, on the other hand, you give too much information they are already familiar with, the audience will lose interest. Therefore, it is important to find the right balance between what you do and do not need to tell, which can only be done if you know your audience.

Interest / Prejudices
Take into account what your audience is interested in. Think about what kind of information is most interesting to your audience and why they are there to listen to your presentation. The more personalized your presentation, the more memorable it is. If you give examples, make sure the examples reflect your audience’s interest rather than your own. Have your listeners come to listen to your presentation in particular or is there some other reason why they have come? If you give an argumentative presentation, think about what the audience’s opinion might be. Are you preaching to the choir or are you talking to sceptics? All these aspects determine the shape and contents of your presentation.

Benefits
To raise your audience’s interest even further, it is advisable to point out to them how they benefit from the information you are giving. What is the relevance for your audience? If the listeners are given a good reason why it is important for them to listen to what you have to say, they will be inclined to listen more carefully and take in more information.

Size
The size of the group partly determines the shape, contents, and formality of your presentation. For larger groups, the information tends to be less specific and you will have to work harder to keep the audience’s attention. In a large audience, the individual members feel less responsible for the atmosphere in the room than in a small group, so it requires more of an effort to keep everyone interested. Presentations in a large group are, in general, also more formal, partly because you cannot adapt the information to the individual needs of your entire audience and because interaction with the listeners is more difficult.

Language
It makes a difference whether you are talking a an audience of native speakers or an audience of people from all over the world. You need to adapt your language to the proficiency level of your listeners. If you are talking to a group of non-native speakers, make sure your language is not too difficult, that you explain things clearly and maybe paraphrase your information, and that you do not use difficult words, expressions, or grammatical structures. If your language level is too high for the audience, they will lose interest and stop listening actively.

Questions
The composition of your audience determines what kind of questions you can expect. If you know who your listeners are, you will be able to predict the questions they will ask during or after your presentation and prepare some answers. (See Question Time.)

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