You can’t connect with your audience if you don’t know who they are. “How can you meet their needs if you don’t know their needs?” Rush asks.
For a speech or company-wide presentation, Rush advises learning their priorities and their gripes. “Obtain Glint or Morale [company satisfaction] survey results up front if you’re speaking to employees,” she says. For internal or external corporate presentations, read anonymous reviews of the company on sites like Glassdoor. “Weave in employee sentiments, quotes, content or subject matter to keep what you’re speaking on relevant and interesting.”
If you’ve been asked to deliver an inspirational or motivational speech, work with your event contact to understand the audience. How old are they? (This will help you select stories and illustrations that land well.) What do they need? How can your message reinforce the theme of the event?
Having a handle on who your audience is will also better help you engage them in your presentation. “Ask your audience questions — rhetorical or to be answered out loud. You want your audience to remain active participants thinking alongside you as you speak, instead of falling asleep during your presentation,” Rush says.
Remember, everything is about the audience, not you. This will help you navigate some of the obstacles inherent to public speaking. But we don’t want to jump the gun. Next up: message.