the importance of knowing your audience

21 Jan

Late last year I attended a really interested session at my old PR agency where Nancy Duarte (@NancyDuarte) presented tips on developing presentations that really resonate with an audience. She shared lots of great tips, which I busily scribbled down in my notebook. One tip for building successful presentations was to spend time thinking about and *really* getting to know and understand your audience. Seems like kind of an obvious one, but think about it…

Whether presenting a keynote on a big stage, in a staff meeting or even to an audience of one, tailoring the content of your presentation or pitch to resonate with a specific audience helps ensure it’s not only understood, but more likley to be well recepted. The examples, stories and annecdotes you chose should help the audience “get it”.

And yet, how much time do we really spend doing this in practice? Thinking about the level of knowledge or understanding our audience has about the topic we’re presenting on *before* we actually pull together our content.

In PR, we typically tailor pitch content and speaking points to the type of reporter we’re talking to. But I can think of plenty times content developed for one audience is used “as-is” for a completely different one, sometimes resulting in things getting lost in traslation in the process.

Earlier this week, I dialed in to a meeting where the presenter made some big assuptions about the level of general understanding and buy-in of the topic being discussed. So instead of starting with content to get folks on board with the importance of the topic, they jumped right to some recent results and “asks” of the team.

We sometimes assume when we’re close to a particular topic and passionate about it, other people have a similar level of understanding. But that’s not always the case. And as a result in this particular case, there wasn’t much engagement of the larger team on the call. Not because they didn’t care or want to participate, but more, I believe, because they were simply a bit lost. Both the presenter and the attendees likely left feeling a bit frustrated they didn’t get more out of it.

It was a great reminder about how critical it is to deliberately take time to understand our audience.


2 Responses to “the importance of knowing your audience”

  1. Nancy Duarte January 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Thanks, Erin! I’m glad you enjoyed that session.


  1. Back From the Pile: Interesting Links, January 28, 2011 – Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat - January 28, 2011

    […] Erin Collopy is back in her new blog with the importance of knowing your audience […]

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