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Understanding your audience's knowledge level

From: Presentation Fundamentals

Video: Understanding your audience's knowledge level

Have you ever sat in an audience too embarrassed to admit that you have no clue what the speaker is talking about? Or, the opposite, which makes it painfully difficult to stay focused when the speaker is covering the very basic concepts which you learned ages ago. This happens often when speakers don't really consider the fundamental question about their audiences. What do they know, and what do they not know about the topic? Take a minute and envision the audience you might be speaking to for your next presentation.

Understanding your audience's knowledge level

Have you ever sat in an audience too embarrassed to admit that you have no clue what the speaker is talking about? Or, the opposite, which makes it painfully difficult to stay focused when the speaker is covering the very basic concepts which you learned ages ago. This happens often when speakers don't really consider the fundamental question about their audiences. What do they know, and what do they not know about the topic? Take a minute and envision the audience you might be speaking to for your next presentation.

Take time to think through these 2 knowledge questions. The answers to them will make you more creditable and help you prepare for questions and comments during your presentation. If your group knows very little about your topic, or if your topic is technical or unfamiliar process, you want to simplify the explanation to the most common denominator. If you audience is unfamiliar with your topic, relate it to something they do know and help them connect the dots. Avoid acronyms or terms the group may be unfamiliar with.

For example, when Katie first starts talking about [kinetico] creating business relationships in Brazil, and she knows that someone in her office is unfamiliar with where Brazil is, she may say, "Brazil is the largest country in the Latin American region bordering both the North and South Atlantic Ocean", while she shows a familiar World Map and zooms in on the region. She shouldn't reference anything about Brazil being one of the BRIC countries. The group acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, and China, unless she's sure the group knows the term.

When your audience is familiar with your topic, then it's safe to use insider language, and make comparisons that are common to the group. Even if you're coming into this group to make a presentation, take the time to find out what that insider language is. Consider using the experts in the room. There times when you will be presenting a topic in front of a group that maybe knows more about it than you do. What do you do with those folks? Recognize them and use them as part of your presentaiton.

In Katie's case, we know that the audience is familiar with entering Canada and Mexico. Because of that content knowledge, Katie can reference transit time being longer with Brazil compared to Mexico. She also knows that one of the managers in the office is married to a Brazilian. If he's in the meeting, she can ask him to share a story or antidote on culture differences between the 2 countries. The more time you spend researching your audiences knowledge level, the smoother your presentation will be.

If it's not possible for you to get this information before hand be prepared for a mixed audience and get there early to ask clarifying questions. When you present to a mixed audience, refer to both high and low content knowledge audience members. For example, you can say for the ones of you who are hearing about this for the first time, and then explain a little about the term, or you can say for some of you this isn't new, and reference the connection they do know. Take time and think through who will be in the room in your next presentation.

Be sure you stay in sync with everyone there and be prepared juggle their level of knowledge.

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Presentation Fundamentals

27 video lessons · 6854 viewers

Tatiana Kolovou
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