Recently, a colleague of mine told me about a presentation he did where his audience did not appear to catch on to what he was saying. “I don’t understand why they were so disinterested in what I had to say,” he told me.
I asked about the subject. He described it as a technical deep dive into a software product.
“Who was in the audience?”
“It was systems administrators who were supposedly very technical.”
“Did you confirm this when you stood up to do your presentation?”
“No, I didn’t need to.”
He never confirmed the makeup of his audience. After our conversation, he went back to his sales team. He asked again about who attended his session. What he found out was that the majority of the people in the room were first and second level managers! No wonder his “technical deep dive” was viewed with disinterest!
We learn two lessons from this. The first is to ask before your presentation about who is supposed to be in the audience. The second, however, is to also confirm your expectations when you first stand up. When you make a technical presentation to a group of managers, it probably isn’t going to over very well. Presenter, “Know thy audience”!