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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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