Presentation Skills: Know Your Audience

Do you dread having to make an important presentation? Do your hands sweat? Does your mouth go dry? When you start to speak, does your brain freeze up?

There are few people who don’t feel some nervousness when they speak to a large audience in a formal environment, but once you know how, you can control nerves in many ways. One of the most important is to be well prepared, and to have confidence that your material will be well received by the audience.

Your first step should be to decide on the objective of any presentation. Are you informing the audience about something? Do you want to prompt a debate on a topic? Or do you want to motivate and persuade people to buy something, make a decision or approve a proposal?

Your second step should be to find out exactly who will be in the audience, and what they need to hear so that you can achieve your objective. Then you can design your presentation to meet the needs of the audience, and to anticipate their concerns, questions and any objections they might have to what you propose. For example, a presentation to raise awareness of HIV AIDS to a group of social workers would be very different from a presentation on the same topic to a group of teenagers, or to a group of their parents.

The more receptive an audience is to your presentation, the more people will nod, smile and send positive signals back to you. Their enthusiastic response and positive feedback will make it difficult for you to remain nervous.

Careful preparation of any presentation is one of the best ways of making a presentation more effective and dealing with nervousness.