To whom it should concern

“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern'” – Ken Haemer, former AT&T presentation research manager

Did you ever wonder why the people in the auditorium or meeting room came in to listen to your presentation?

In fact, you should ask yourself that simple question each time again. Because each audience –or even each single member of that audience– may have different and personal reasons for attending:

  • “Learn something.”  As you, the guy in the front, are assumed to be an expert in your domain.
  • “Get the necessary foundation for making a business decision.”
  • “Obtain confirmation or recognition from managers or peers in the same room.”
  • “Meet with other people in the industry.”  At public conferences and seminars.
  • “Be entertained – and enjoy a networking cocktail at the end of the day.”  Also often the case at public events.
  • None of the above. Some people may just “feel obliged to attend.”

As such, it’s extremely important that you have a good knowledge of who is your audience to tailor your presentation to their specific knowledge, needs and expectations.

In many cases the persons that demand most of your attention or ask many questions are not the ones that are taking the (business) decisions at the end of the day. Power mapping techniques, like drawing a power quadrant, often lead you to a better identification and understanding of the key players in the room.

A power quadrant assesses the (e.g. technical or financial) authority or expertise of your listeners vs. the effective decision or execution power they have. A well prepared presenter knows to which category the people in front of him/her belong, and how to deal with the different roles they play.

  • Influencers are experts in an advisory role, but don’t have clear decision power. Provide them with the arguments to convince their managers. Go through the details and help them score.
  • In many cases, controllers have a final word. As they often don’t have the expertise to grasp all the details of your presentation, just make sure that you win their confidence, trust and support.
  • Deciders are the ones who have both the knowledge and the power to close the meeting with a clear “go” or “nogo”.  Give them all necessary elements for making a decision –here and now!
  • And finally, there are also non-contributing spectators. There is no need to pay special attention to them. Just help them make it through the day.

In a next blog post, I will tell more about another table to draw: the influencer quadrant. It can be used to identify supporters and opponents in the audience, and to help you make or keep them happy.

There’s some good advice for those in front of the speaker desk too:


5 thoughts on “To whom it should concern

  1. Marc,

    This is such a good way to look at the composition of an audience! Your power quadrant does a nice job of graphically illustrating the dynamic. Thanks also for mentioning my blog!


  2. Pingback: Denning’s patterns | B2B STORYTELLING

  3. Pingback: Dealing with introverts and extraverts | B2B STORYTELLING

  4. Pingback: Keep calm and be relevant | B2B STORYTELLING

  5. Pingback: Creating personas for audience-centric story design | B2B STORYTELLING

Comments are closed.