If you’ve ever given a presentation that fell flat because you misjudged your audience in some way, the following urban tale will resonate with you.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp acquired the New York Post in 1993. Apparently Murdoch bumped into one of the bigwigs from Bloomingdales some time later and, in the course of the conversation, inquired why Bloomies never advertised in the Post.

“Because, my good fellow, your readers are my shoplifters,” he was told.

O-u-c-h!

Now, I don’t care that Marvin Taub, chairman of Bloomingdales, has denied ever saying that to the illustrious Mr Murdoch, it is simply too good a story to ignore. Just a few minutes of thought can make such a difference in any encounter and if you are going to be talking to a roomful of people, you owe it to everyone concerned to ensure that your presentation is going to hit the right note.

Have you ever been at a wedding where the best man told what he thought were hilarious stories about the groom – stories that fell completely flat with the majority of the audience? It is so easy for this to happen if you don’t stop and sanity-check your talk from the audience’s perspective. When I saw Mel Brooks’ The Producers for the first time, the Springtime for Hitler scene made me laugh, but it was the panning shot across the faces of the stunned audience that made me howl.

At the beginning of your talk, the audience is at Point A – you need to be clear what that means. What is their disposition? What are their beliefs? Are they right or are they wrong? How did they arrive at Point A? When you are clear on that, you can start thinking about what Point B is, where it is and how you are going to bring this audience to that point.

So often, when I ask clients what they want to achieve with their presentations, what the take-aways for the audience are, I get head-scratching and blank stares. You must know this! Otherwise, why are you doing the presentation? And if you are to know this, you must know who your audience are and how they currently think. Or you could take a job as Advertising Manager for Playboy and start calling the Vatican looking for them to buy a year of outside back covers …