Effective Audience Analysis

Do you know how to connect with your audience?

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read

Hey, gang. Today’s question comes from Mike in Canada. He is transitioning from technical sales to technical training. While in sales, Mike created and delivered his own presentations. Now, as part of the training team, he delivers presentations that have been created by other people.

Actually, Mike isn’t the only one who has asked me this question. I remember when I first started the show I received an email from someone who worked in Human Resources. She was required to deliver presentations that were created by the home office, and she asked the same question as Mike.

How to Deliver Someone Else’s Material

And that is, “How do you effectively deliver someone else’s material?”

Especially in larger organizations, standard presentations are often created in an effort to ensure consistent communication. However, for most people it’s much more difficult to deliver a presentation or training session using someone else’s slides or material than it is to deliver their own material. And, in my experience, when presentations (or training sessions) go horribly wrong, the root cause almost always boils down to one thing: The presentation didn’t resonate with the audience because the material wasn’t specific enough for that particular audience.

Unfortunately, when you make a presentation developed by someone else, this problem is much more likely to surface. The person or group that creates the material usually has a generic audience in mind, or maybe a specific audience, but that usually isn’t YOUR particular group that you’re making the presentation to. And unless you take steps to adapt the material for your participants, you’re guaranteed to have a problem.

So what can you do?

Adapt for This Particular Audience

How do you reach your audience and connect with them? You’ll want to find out as much as you can so that you can adapt the presentation to the needs, interests, and background of your listeners.

The more you understand about the participants and the stresses they face, the more successful you’ll be at making a solid connection.

It may seem simple and obvious, but it deserves extra attention. It’ the most important thing you can do for any presentation. The more you understand about the participants, their work environment, and the stresses they face, the more successful you’ll be at making a solid connection. I can’t emphasize that enough. 

When I’ve had (let’s just say) less than stellar results, it was because I took a shortcut on the audience analysis process. It’s critical to spend the time necessary to get to know all of the involved stakeholders.

First, talk to the people who requested the presentation. Find out their expectations. What do they want the audience to say, think, or do differently when you’re done talking? You need for them to articulate this so that they themselves are clear about what they want.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.