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Don’t over-estimate the knowledge of your audience.

When making a presentation to a new audience, the smart thing to do, if there is an opportunity, is to ask your audience by show of hands, if they have some knowledge of your industry or space. If you are making a one-to-one presentation, don’t start without a conversation about the other person’s knowledge of your space. With that conversation, you create an immediate connection with your audience even before beginning to present, and you know better how much explanation you will need to accompany your most elementary statements. And you will ventureforwardweb-237not insult the industry experts by appearing to talk down to them.

When I give a keynote address, I often start by asking my audience, by raise of hands, to tell me how many are angel or VC investors, and how many are entrepreneurs, how many are service providers such as attorneys. Immediately, I can tell how to orient the explanations behind my pre-cast slides, based upon the response. It always works, and the audience should appreciate that the speaker takes the time to orient the talk to the audience, not the other way around.

If your audience is composed of PhD’s in organic chemistry, would you want to explain the most elementary teachings in the field? On the other hand, it is most often true that only one or a few of your audience members is knowledgeable in your area of expertise. Address them directly with “I hope you will put up with me as I spend a few moments explaining some of our elementary knowledge to the others.” That makes these experts a part of your presentation, able to nod their heads when you do explain these things to the others, instead of looking a bit disdainful that you don’t recognize that there are experts in the room.

  • Excellent advice Dave. I have seen too many speakers who do not know their audience and they lose their audience quickly. We attended one just recently.

    Thank you for great advice!

  • Bill Brewer

    Some great presentation advice. Thank you Dave.

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