Presentations are an effective way to reach a large number of people at once—whether in-person or online. But in order to make a good impression, you need to know who's in the audience. And I don't just mean their names—it's import to understand what they want to learn, and how they learn best.

You’ve heard of preparing ideal client personas before—the process you go through to identify who you’re trying to target with your marketing materials. Prepping for a presentation is a very similar process—knowing who the audience is, how they want to receive the information, and how they want to interact with you is key.

Know Who They Are

Your presentation will vary depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re presenting at a conference, it’s easy enough to ask for a list of attendees and some general background. If you’re hosting a webinar, look at the insights from the ads you ran or the metrics from the funnel your audience went through to click the "Register" button. If you are presenting directly to a client or a potential client, research the company and your organization's relationship with them beforehand. Gather as much information as you can so you can address this particular audience's pain points and meet them where they are.

Understand How They Learn

Every great teacher understands that every learner is different. It's likely that when you present to a group of people, you will have to engage with a variety of learning styles. You can accommodate multiple learning styles by incorporating different modes into a single presentation. Include handouts, video, slides and even narrative text when appropriate. Some other ways to accommodate different learning styles:

Visual learners: Use diagrams and demonstrations, flow charts and color-coding. Audience members want to see how something works, rather than just hear about it.

Auditory learners: Engaging the audience in conversations about your presentation is key. Ask questions and encourage them to reflect with one another. Make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly.

Tactile learners: These audience members want to do something. Use handouts, worksheets, and technology to get them involved. If appropriate, get them up and moving around during the presentation and actually participating with the material.

Consider How They’ll Participate

Is your audience out on the road, or sitting behind a desk? Are they multi-tasking during a live presentation? Knowing where and how your audience will view your presentation can help you address their specific needs.

For example, if your audience is watching from a mobile device, you may want to caption your presentation. If they’re sitting with you in a meeting room, handouts can help drive your message home. If they’ll only be hearing you, you can make sure to include thoughtful descriptions of visual elements. Once you’ve crafted the presentation, think of different ways to present the same material to give your audience more options.

Your audience is why you’re presenting—whether it’s to make sales, grow your following or to educate and help them. When you go into your presentation knowing as much as you can about them you can make a great impression and create a positive experience that will leave your audience feeling confident about your company.

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