I was contacted by a PR company who was representing a psychologist. The psychologist had developed a workshop for the clients of a financial services firm. They asked me to facilitate that workshop.
The workshop was only two hours long and straight forward. It was about planning your use of time once you had retired. Even though I had many conversations with all the groups above, I didn’t investigate who was coming to the workshop.
On the evening of the workshop we were halfway through and I asked whether the workshop was making sense? One half of the room said the workshop was fantastic and the material really opened their eyes and made them think.
The other half of the room almost erupted in protest. “None of this makes sense”, “Only came here for the coffee” they yelled. What was I going to do?
As it turned out there was nothing I could do at the time. The group who were “up in arms” had already retired, so telling them how to plan for their retirement was not very useful. The other group who were full of compliments were years off retiring so found the techniques relevant.
If I had my time over, I would have rung the financial advisers and found out more about who they were inviting. They could then have invited more of the right people!
A client was pitching for the construction of a government building with a high degree of complexity. There was only one engineer who had done this specific type of work before and they were based in England. My client was able to successfully engage this engineer to be part of their bid team. This was a real coup for my client.
Unfortunately, they lost the bid. They conducted a debrief with my client and was surprised to discover that one of the reasons they were unsuccessful was because the government didn’t really believe that my client would be able to engage the key engineer. The reason for this was because they had tried and failed!
What could we have done differently to overcome this?
In the final presentation we could have
- Played a recording of the engineer saying how much they were looking forward to working with the government.
- Done a live cross in the presentation to demonstrate commitment.
- Flown the engineer out to be present on the day.
So it is vital to understand what drives an audience on a rational and emotional level.
After being clear on your topic, who you are presenting to (names and titles) and where the pitch is taking place, you are ready to dive into your audience analysis.
The fundamental purpose of Audience Analysis is to connect with each member of the audience so that they are more receptive to your your pitch.
Andew Abela (2008) gives us sound advice when thinking about our audience when he said that “if you routinely skip the step of thinking about the different personalities in the room, then there is a real risk that over time you will revert to accommodating only your own personality type and preferences.”
Given all the different possible combinations of styles and preferences that exist with an audience, there is probably a small probability that your style and preferences will match theirs. Therefore, it makes sense to adapt your pitch to the needs and interests and background of your audience (McMurray 2016). As a guide, this can be done by looking at the topics below.
- Know your style and know the style of your audience. These include thinking about your:
- Communication style, you can use any typology you like such as Myers Briggs,
- Body language, such as posture, facial expression, gestures and voice,
- Language, which includes vocabulary and
- Dress, making it appropriate.
- Know what’s important to them individually including any views or opinions they have on what you are pitching.
- Build trust and credibility by reflecting back what you have heard or read in the brief for the pitch.
- Don’t assume anything. Check and double check.
Audience analysis can be tedious but it’s a confidence builder and will result in a more personalised and polished pitch.
The amount of time you spend on this step is reflective of the importance of the pitch.
Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.
McMurray, D 2016, 25. Audience Analysis, viewed <https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/oertechcomm/25>.