Before You Present: 12 Questions To Ask About An Audience (And The Room)

Part of presenting is being fully prepared.

Not theater or classroom - but congressional seating! Yes, this was my room for a day. It was cool. I love my job!

Not theater or classroom - but congressional seating! Yes, this was my room for a day. It was cool. I love my job!

This means beyond your speech and Power Point slides. Do a little research on your audience before you present. This will make you a better speaker by informing your speech with what matters to your listeners. And also ask about the room logistics. Trust me, you do not want to be giving a speech while all 100 attendees are face-down into their strawberry salads. (True story.)

Not all of these will be relevant – pick and choose according to your situation:

Makeup of Audience:

1. How many attendees will be there?

2. Tell me about this audience:

• Gender(s)

• Age range

• Level(s) of education (degreed-or-non-degreed), specializations?

• Which field(s) they work in, etc.

3. Is the audience aware they are receiving this training (talk, presentation, etc.)?
How do they feel about it? (e.g., “Excited,” “Meh,” “Feel like they’re being forced,” etc.)

4. What are their expectations?

• Purely fun? Educational? Learn a new skill? Mixture of all 3? Something else?

5. What is their main concern?

6. If attendees are entirely from one organization, ask about the organization:

• For-profit or non-profit?

• Size?

• What’s their organizational culture like?

7. Is someone introducing you? If so, write your very brief intro, email it to your introducer, and also bring a printed copy. (Suggested: 14-point bold, double spaced.) Include information your audience wants to hear: Your accomplishments, your publications, your website, what else?

Logistics and Space:

8. Any time allotted for breaks?

9. Size of the room?

10. Set up: Theater style, classroom, rounds?

• Set up can shape how focused [or not] listeners will be. Theater or classroom is more conducive to focus on the front of the room; rounds are ideal for discussion and group activities.

11. Is food or drink available? Is food or drink being served during your talk?

12. What else is helpful for you – the speaker – to know?