The popular adage about what happens when we assume – you make an “ass of u and me” – definitely applies to preparing for a speech or presentation. To avoid assuming anything about your audience, I encourage you to play journalist by asking the basic five who-what-when-where-why questions along with the how question, and directing them to the person who invites you to speak.
- “Who will be in attendance?” Get as many particulars as you can, by age range, job title, experience with your topic, any prevailing attitudes it would be helpful to know.
- “What is the purpose of the group/meeting/project?” It’s not enough to hear that the group meets once a month for dinner, or that the project is part of an ongoing series. Dig as deeply as you can to be clear on what their mission is and how your words and experience can be helpful.
- “When does the group meet and when did they decide this topic was of interest?” A breakfast talk may need a different energy or content than a keynote after dinner and cocktails. Additionally, you want to know as much about the group and its decision making as possible.
- “Where will the presentation be and where do you think the audience stands on the topic?” Again, your goal is
to capture as much relevant background information as possible, to help you best craft your message, and breakdown that invisible barrier.
- “Why do you think there is interest in my topic? Why do you want me to speak on it?” You may or may not get complete or even totally honest answers to your questions. Ask any way!
- “How would you approach this presentation if you were doing it?” Ideally, this insider will reveal some valuable hints to incorporate into your approach. You do not have to follow their recommendation exactly but it’s a good idea to listen carefully and apply what works best.