In my coaching I advise people to research their audience - the people to whom they'll present their information, opinions and ideas. Why? Because the more you know about the general composition of your audience, the better you can direct your talk to them. Every audience is unique and deserves a unique approach. I assume and even hope, that you wouldn't dream of giving exactly the same presentation, in the same way, to a group of sixteen to twenty year old people, as you might to a group of people aged between seventy and a hundred and one. So yes, in as short a space of time as possible, learn as much as possible about who'll be listening to you. Their ages, gender breakdown, educational background and so on.
Again, if you're addressing a small group of post grad students you'll include different levels of detail about your topic than if you've been asked to speak to a Junior High School students. Then, forget the audience. By that I mean, please don't try to double guess them.
In just about every public speaking seminar I've conducted, or public speaking coaching session I've done, I have found one very common mistake being made. People make assumptions about their audiences based on how the audience seems to be responding. In turn, those perceptions are based on things like the facial expressions of the listeners. They're also based on the speaker's sense of how the audience should look, and how they should be responding.
Let me reassure you. You've done the research about the audience, you've spent an adequate amount of time preparing your presentation, you have your notes and you've done at least one quick rehearsal of your presentation. That's it. You'll be marvellous.
While you're delivering your talk please don't start to worry about the fact that your audience is not laughing, or they seem to be frowning. Doing that is only using energy you should be using on your presentation. Based on years of experience let me tell you: chances are the facial expressions of people in your audience have absolutely nothing to do with you. It's just an undermining distraction for you to start focussing on audience reactions.
That's why in my coaching, my seminars and my e-programs, I place such an emphasis on exercises which help you to perceive your audiences as allies or friends rather than a hostile mob waiting for you to forget your next line. In some instances, you may be the person delivering bad news or you may be the not-so-preferred politician who's speaking to a group of people who don't normally vote for your Party. Fine. That's difficult. I admit it.
I deal with that in my article 'Dealing with Difficult Questions and/or Difficult Audiences'. For most occasions, your audience is made up of individuals just like you. They're wishing you the very best.
They're hoping you'll be great. After all, they've given up a great day at the beach just to hear you. And it will be worth it. As always, to your continued happiness and success.
Based in Melbourne, Australia Dr Jeannette Kavanagh is a solution-oriented counsellor helping people overcome anxiety and panic attacks, particularly when speaking or performing in public. Sign up for her FREE ezine Public Speaking Success