Feb 20 2012

No Surprises!


Holiday Inn trains its employees using the motto “no Surprises.” These two words are regularly repeated through their staff training. Translation? We don’t want our clients to have any unexpected or unpleasant surprises when they stay at out hotels. A surprise could be; “Sorry, breakfast is not served until 7:00 am.” “Sorry, you’re room is not ready yet.” “Sorry, you can’t check out at noon.” Client surprises like these are remembered and result in lost business.

So it is with giving presentations. As the speaker, you want to avoid any surprises that could have been prevented with thorough preparation. This is where the need for an “audit” arises. Take the time to get to know your client and attendees as best you can during your speech preparation phase. Do this by gathering information relevant to the needs and interests of your audience. What you gather during your audit will allow you to customize your talk, presentation aids and materials so that when giving your talk, the audience will feel that you are talking right to them.

What information do you need about your audience? Here’s a brief summary of the five areas I give focus to when completing my audience audit.

• Demographics

This will include things like the number of expected attendees, the male-female ratio, average audience age, education range, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

• Workplace Experience

Find out about the audience’s knowledge on your topic, their work experiences and any sensitive issues – political or organizational matters - that should not be raised during the talk.

• Factors Affecting Group Dynamics

Questions you might ask under this area include; Will there be decision makers in the audience? Will the attendees be coming by choice? What are their job successes and frustrations? What is the morale of the group – overworked, motivated, powerless?

• Expectations

Find out what the contact person expects. Survey a sampling of the intended audience via email to find out their expectations. With these two groups, I usually ask the question; “What are your top 3 expectations?”

• Venue

Include in your audit questionnaire questions about room size, room location, light and temperature controls, seating arrangements, AV equipment provided, time allotments, microphone needs and any competing events within the vicinity of your presentation.

I highly recommend the book “The Trainer in You” – chapter 3; which will give you comprehensive information and forms to guide the completion of an audit (see “Books” on this website)

A good audit will not only help you live by the motto ‘no surprises’, it will increase your level of enthusiasm about the group. Best yet, you’ll be confident that what you say will really matter to them!

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