by Colleen Kettenhofen

Allowing plenty of time, if possible, find out exactly who will be in your audience. Consider getting some of their names, phone numbers and email addresses so you can do a “survey” or interview to find out more about their needs, challenges and expectations before the day you present. Are they colleagues or clients you’ve personally invited? What will be the attitude of your participants? In other words, do they want to be there or is attendance mandatory? Are you going to be presenting any “bad news” or information they may not want to hear? In my presentation skills training, people often tell me that two of their biggest challenges are “how to handle a hostile audience,” and “how to present bad news.” If you start by knowing who will be in attendance, what their expectations are, as well as their objections, you can then begin to prepare your presentation. Studies show that by rehearsing and truly being prepared, you can reduce nervousness by 75%. In addition, 95% of the success of your presentation is determined before you present.

Your main source of information will be the individual who invited you to speak. When you ask them questions, it also gives the impression that you’re conscientious and meticulous in planning and preparation. Also find out if there are any issues sensitive to the group or topics to be avoided. What about any cultural differences or language barriers? When I’m giving a keynote speech or breakout session at a conference, I inquire about getting a list of all attendees, their phone numbers and/or email addresses. I like to “interview” at least 3 people who will be attending. Often times they’ll come up with other pertinent issues that the contact person may not have known about or simply forgot to mention. If the presentation is to a client, or potential new client, keep apprised of their company news, goals and objectives. What is an average work day like for the participants in your audience? What are their greatest challenges? And if applicable, how does your product or service help solve their problem? Ask yourself, “Why am I here?” And, “Why are they here?” Everyone is always tuned in to “Radio Station WIIFM,” which stands for, “What’s in it for me?!” So…how does what you’re talking about address their problem, the “what’s in it for me?”

In addition to interviewing individuals ahead of your presentation, do “meets and greets” if at all possible. Get to know people one-on-one right before your talk. It will calm your nerves to see them not as total strangers. Also, it shows you’re taking an interest in them. Often by talking one-on-one beforehand, you discover a wealth of new information you may want to bring up in your presentation. In knowing your audience ahead of time, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the attitude of the audience? Do they want to be there?
  • What are their approximate ages?
  • What is the percentage of males to females?
  • What are their levels of education?
  • What is their technical expertise?
  • What about their geographic locations in terms of home base?
  • What about their cultural make up?

November 16, 2005

You are free to reprint or repost this article for use in your newsletters, association publications, or intranet provided Colleen Kettenhofen’s contact information (name, website, and email) is included with the article. Colleen Kettenhofen is a Phoenix, Arizona motivational speaker, trainer, & co-author of “The Masters of Success ,” featured on NBC’s Today Show, along with Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield. For free articles, video clips, and e-newsletter, visit Colleen’s area of expertise are leadership, managing people, life balance, difficult people, presentation skills. Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions and seminars.


She can be reached at contact information listed below:

Colleen Kettenhofen

(971) 212-0479


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