Consider the Audience First.


If the thought of addressing an audience prompts the thought: "what should I say", then you are not alone. Whether a pitch, presentation or speech, the starting points for preparation can vary enormously. Many pitches start with a symbolic deleting of one client's name on the top of the PowerPoint document, and the insertion of another... (and then saving under a new filename... 'at least I've begun'). Once the 'deck' takes shape, we ask: "how do we string a story together?"

 

A better starting point would be: "what are they thinking?". Consider the best pitches or presentations you've heard. They normally manage to speak directly to what you are interested in, or consider important. The best speakers will be much less worried about what they say, but will be in their audience's shoes; they will be directly connected to their audience's thought-process.

 

The best salespeople do not push what they have to sell, rather they are skilled in talking directly about what is important to their potential client... whether it be a business solution or a more 'human' issue. A fine example of this, is the 'pitch' by Al Pacino's character Ricky Roma in 'Glengarry Glen Ross' (1992). He is selling property, but talks only about what he senses is important to his target... his aversion to risk. If you can stomach the bad language/ content, you'll find the clip here.

 

So, by now you must want me to get to the point. Here is a good set of 'prompts' to consider the audience before any pitch, or presentation.

  • Who is your audience? Try to establish their motivations. What they fear, and need. What are their preconceptions, and familiarity with the subject?
  • What is my objective? What do you want to them to be persuaded of, remember, or go away afterwards and act on?
  • What is my logic? Consider what logical arguments that will be persuasive. You may need to find facts, concrete examples that are relevant. Don't describe it, prove it.
  • What is my rhetoric? What are the points that will address the right-side of their brain - their emotions? Consider anecdotes, and success stories. What is the sequence and structure that will give the right momentum?
  • What about politics? Consider which stakeholders you have to win over, and need to address; in a competitive pitch there may be divergent objectives on the buying team for example.

and finally...

  • What graphics? Where does a visual aid, such as a chart, aid comprehension and persuasion for the audience?

In sum, a great pitch or presentation must consider constantly the audience's thought process, and adjust for it. Systematically planning to think about things from this point of view allows us to step outside our own agenda, and worries... and speak to our audience. It makes for a better objective.