Organizing for Your Audience

In an earlier chapter, you learned about audience analysis. The analysis helps you create a profile. Organizing for your audience relates to the how the gathered content can be best arranged for them. According to Patricia Fripp (2011), a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and executive speech coach, any presentation can be intimidating but the key is to remember “your goal is to present the most valuable information possible to the members of the audience” (p. 16). Now what you think is most valuable and what the audience thinks is most valuable must be coordinated because of differences in perception (the process by which we give meaning to our experience). Therefore, organizing for your audience is focused on content, structure, packaging, and human element—not for you, not for the assignment, but for the audience. A customized plan of organization will assist your group in creating relevant messages that satisfy others’ personal needs and goals (Keller, 1983).

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

—William James

Content

Audience members are interested in your expertise that has been developed from solid research and preparation.

Audience members may have expectations about what foundational literature and key sources should be contained within your presentation. Therefore as a group you need to go beyond providing a variety of supporting material within your presentation to considering who will be present, levels of expertise and their expectations. In general, organizing the content should be focused on usage, knowledge levels, and objectives. First, usage refers to how audience members expect to use your presentational content which will help the group transform ideas into audience-centered speech points. Second, knowledge level means the audience’s knowledge level about the topic within the audience which assists the group in developing supporting material for the entire audience. Third, the objectives are linked to how the content serves the audience’s needs and assists the group in being intentional about helping the audience see the reason for their involvement and receive value for the time they devoted to attend. Overall, the content is coordinated in a way that keeps at the forefront who the decision makers are and what specifics they need to know, would be nice to know, and do not need to know.

Structure

Next professionally packaging a presentation for the audience deals with the structure or how you arrange points. The structure takes into consideration a strong opening, logical order, relevant key points, conciseness, and use of supplementary visual aids. In addition, the linking of points involves conversational language and the appropriate use of acronyms and technical jargon for inclusion or exclusion. The focus is geared to the perception of trustworthiness. Three strategic questions to answer include:

  1. What qualities as a group will demonstrate your trustworthiness to this audience?
  2. What content order needs to be achieved to give the consistent perception of fairness?
  3. What content requires repeating and how should that be achieved—through comparisons, examples, illustrations, etc.?

Packaging

The packaging of successful group presentations revolves around the type of relationship with the audience, the division of time, and enthusiasm. An important dynamic of group presentations is for your group to know if audience members will be required to give an internal presentation or briefing from your presentation. As a group, know if you are packaging a one-time presentation, bidding for a long-term relationship, continuing a relationship for offering expertise, or if the presentation is tied to internal pressures to performance appraisals. Such knowledge will aid your group in developing talking points which can be re-presented with accuracy.

Three people on stools on a stage beneath a screen showing a presentationThe type of presentation will help you divide the time for your presentation. The majority of the time is always spent on the body of the speech. A typical 30-minute speech might be divided into four minutes for the introduction, ten minutes for the body, and four minutes for the conclusion. The remainder 12 minutes is for the audience to ask questions, offer objections, or simply to become part of the discussion. It is important to leave enough time for the audience to contribute to the intellectual content. Therefore, always design group presentations with the intent not to run out of time before the audience can participate. All group presentations should have enthusiasm. Group members should be enthusiastic about the audience, message, and occasion. Planned enthusiasm should play a role in the creating the introduction, conclusion, and body of your presentations. The consistent use of enthusiasm can be planned throughout the speech outline.

Human Element

Now it is time to focus on compatibility. As a group consider what will it take to get this audience to pay attention to your presentation. Answer questions such as:

  1. What can your group do to develop an introduction, transitions, and conclusions in a way to connect with this audience?
  2. What types of stories are common or relatable to this audience?
  3. What are the attitudes, beliefs, and values of this audience?

What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.

—Margaret Thatcher