Presentations or Training: “Know” your audience first.

presentation.audience2Whether we are going to make a presentation to colleagues or potential clients, preparing for a training course, about to enter into a negotiation or start an international meeting, one thing that they all have in common is that there is going to be an audience. One of the key elements in achieving successful communication is having as much information as possible about the audience BEFORE the activity.

We recommend that before any activity – whatever if may be – the trainer / presenter contact the organizer or “owner” of it (the secretary of the MD, the Training Manager, etc.)  to obtain the following relevant information. If possible, via face-to-face communication as it is normally easier to obtain the information this way. If it is impossible, by phone. Email tends to depersonalize the exchange of information thereby making it more difficult to obtain!
Whatever method is used, the explicit emphasis must be on obtaining the information so that the ATTENDEES needs, wants and lacks are covered in the most appropriate and effective manner thereby ensuring an efficient use of THEIR time.

Information required:
Who are they?
– What are the names & positions of the attendees?:
– This knowledge makes it easier to personalize the communication.
– It helps to identify “Powers”, “Influences” & “Hot Bodies”. (see below)
– Enables us to identify possible Needs, Wants and Lacks of each attendee and/or  the group as a whole. (See below)

How many people will be attending the activity?
– A small group: 3 – 9 people = more participation expected and more difficult to control.
– A medium-sized group: 10 – 20 people = less participation expected & easier to control.
– A big group: 20 +  people = less active participation during event, the audience expect a Q&A session at the and are normally easier to control due to cultural norms for this type of activity.

Information about this area ensures that:
– the correct quantity of support documents are prepared.
– The logistics are appropriate for the group.
– The speaker / trainer is psychologically prepared to work with this size group.

Are they all from the same organization or from different ones?
Knowledge about this are helps to identify:
– potential areas of conflict / agreement among attendees and the presenter / trainer..
– shared or different knowledge.

Unity: Their level of knowledge?
This information helps us decide on the appropriate starting point of our communication for THIS audience. As C.P. Snow once said” Never overestimate your audience’s knowledge, never underestimate their intelligence!” :
– How much do the audience know about the topic?
– Nothing?
– A lot?
– Somewhere in between the two extremes?
– Would two presentations be more effective than one?
– Should you provide discussion documents to all attendees BEFORE the activity so that
everyone has the same basic knowledge?

This information helps us to ensure that the norms and conventions governing political correctness can be properly observed. In addition, it helps to ensure that the material being dealt with is appropriate in terms of content (complexity, structure, method of delivery, etc) for THIS audience.
– Ages of the participants?
– Gender?
– Cultural level?
– Education? etc.

– What is their Motivation for attending this activity?
–  Intrinsic? – from self interest: they want to attend the event.
–  Extrinsic? – Having been told to attend the event by a boss.
This information often provides an indicator of the potential degree of involvement and participation of the attendees.

Environment: Room set up?
– Natural light?
– A room size appropriate for the number of attendees and the activities planned?
– Are the necessary materials available: flipcharts, pens, paper, projector, screen, etc?
– Are there any physical barriers such as columns in the room which could impede communication?
– Is there easy entry and exit?
– Is the furniture appropriate?
– Is the room set up as required?

Are the Needs, Wants and Lacks of the audience & the speaker covered:
– Water, hard sweets, beverages, knowledge about breaks, lunch, etc?

Time available.
– Are there any cultural norms about punctuality.
– Do the attendees tend to be punctual?
– How much time has been allocated for the activity?

Effects: Should the communication be:
– Threatening?
– Remove worries & fears?

We believe that if the objective of the communication is to convince, the first step should be to create a certain level of fear or uncertainty in the mind of the audience which the communicator then removes though his detailed proposal.

Additional possible sources of information about the attendees.
– Social Networks:
– LinkedIn,
– Facebook,
– Twitter, etc.
– Organization’s web page

The more information the communicator has about the audience members, the more precise and elegant they can be during the event.

Additional points to Consider:
In every organization, no matter its size, you will always find three basic groups of people:
“Hierarchical Powers” – Senior management: President, Country Manager, General Manager, etc.
“Social Powers” – The workmate that everyone follows and “obeys” (the joker, the “rebel” , etc).
“Influences” – Those who influence the powers directly or indirectly (friends, family, colleagues, specialist, etc)
“Hot bodies” – Those who have no power or involvement in any decision-making process.
It is of immense help if the audience members can be categorized into the appropriate category before the activity begins so that appropriate attention can be paid to each one.

Note: BLOG article: What are “Needs”, “Wants” and “Lacks” and Why are They Important?

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, March, 2013.


About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
This entry was posted in Cursos, Meetings & Teleconferences, Negotiation, Sales, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Presentations or Training: “Know” your audience first.

  1. Mnemonist says:

    Succintly written, informative and very useful for every trainer. Thanks for sharing

  2. Pingback: Explaining Blockchain to Kids, and 9 Ways to Connect with Adult Learners During Training – Reify Media

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