Qualifying the Participants

So what do you really know about the speaker and the listeners? The ability to understand attributes of both the presenter and the audience is critical to the message. The objective and the target audience for that objective are so closely intertwined that you should consider them as coexisting . It's like the Sinatra song "Love and Marriage," where he sings, "you can't have one, you can't have none, you can't have one without the uhhhhhhhh-uh-uhhh-ther!" (You're trying to sing that right now, aren't you? I thought so.)

The message is buried between the speaker and the listener. In fact, all presentations follow a standard communication model (Sender ”Message ”Receiver). For visual presenters the model can be described more theatrically as Actor ”Action ”Audience. Regardless of the terms, the human elements of the process ”the sender (presenter) and the receiver (audience) ”are key to the presentation process and crucial to message development.

You need to know the following in order to create messages that tap into specific aspects of both the sender and receiver in the communication model:

  • Learning the traits of the presenter

  • Knowing the particulars of the audience

  • Targeting motivators and filters

Learning the Traits of the Presenter

If you are the presenter of your own message, then you already know your own likes, dislikes, habits, and so forth. But if you have to prepare a message or even the visual support for the message for another person to deliver, then the following section can offer you some helpful information.

In order to construct a believable message, it helps if you know certain characteristics or traits of the presenter. The more the presenter is involved in the message, the better the delivery. Of course, I've seen presentations where I've questioned whether the presenter was actually alive during the event. You're not laughing because some of these people work at your company! Okay, so you have to be prepared and you have to get to know your presenters.

Some points to consider for knowing the traits of the speaker:

  • Personal attributes

  • Delivery style

  • Expertise level

  • Media preferences

In the real world, you may never have the time to really gather this information. In fact, many of those who create content do so for others to present. In a number of situations, the content providers never even see the presenters. Some actually may feel that's a good thing, but, collaboration is the key to effective messaging. So, you have to find ways of working together with a presenter who may be delivering your content. The goal is to get a dialog going. When a presenter has input, the script becomes more personal and will be delivered more emphatically.


Send only the outline of the presentation to one or more presenters and ask for suggestions on the order of topics to be covered (not the content, just the order). Wherever a person makes comments, marks, or notes is where the script is more personal and appeals to the presenter.

Personal Attributes

One of the things I like to do immediately when working with a presenter is to ask one of three "favorites": I want to know his or her favorite type of movie (action, mystery, romance); favorite type of music (rock, jazz, classical); and favorite type of sport to watch or play (football, golf, tennis). (Sometimes I can even get bank account numbers if I push hard enough!)

For example, let's say I'm coaching you. You tell me that you prefer action movies. I would look for some obvious characteristics about action movies, such as "split-second decision-making, sense of urgency, attention to detail, even a hero who saves the day." Perhaps you have some or all of those traits or at least admire those traits in others.

I then look for parts of the script that relate (or could relate) to decision-making, especially the split-second kind. I would search for other parts that involve sense of urgency or attention to detail. There may even be a part in the script where a problem is solved and the "hero saves the day." At those specific points in the presentation, I would ask you, the presenter, to recount personal experiences (stories), cite specific examples, or use some other informative grabbers for the audience. Your energy and enthusiasm will be greater during any moment that is closer to some attribute of your personality. If you have a greater stake in the details, you will deliver the information with more confidence.


The more personal a message is to you, the more you will express it with conviction . It's not about what the topic means ”it's about what the topic means to you.

Delivery Style

Whenever I am working with someone, I look for special elements in the person's delivery style. Style is an interesting word that can mean so many things. If you need to find out more about a presenter, ask some questions.

For example, is she outgoing? Does she like to interact with the audience? Is she comfortable in front of her superiors? The answers to questions such as these will help you frame the message from a presenter point-of-view .

A presenter who likes to interact and "get in close" with the audience, for example, might be more at ease sharing personal experiences rather than displaying numerous statistics. Someone who loves details and trivia may prefer to point out the hidden meanings by reading between the lines or going inside the numbers.

When you know more about the personality of the presenter, it can make your job easier as a content-provider for a speaker who needs less support data than you may have expected. As you shape the message with a presenter in mind, you may find additional opportunities for unique grabbers, such as humor, simply based on the delivery style of the presenter.

Expertise Level

Knowing how in-depth a presenter understands the topic and the key concepts associated with the message is extremely helpful in your efforts to shaping the quantity of content.

For example, if a presenter has a great deal of expertise, the content can be more visual than verbal, more conceptual than concrete. Ah, but keep in mind that we favor the visual presenter. The script should contain broad concepts and limited data so that the audience spends more time listening, watching, and interacting with the presenter and less time reading the screen.

However, there are times when the expertise leads to wordiness, and the audience is bombarded with too many long-winded explanations . What I've noticed is the greater your vocabulary, the harder it is for you to get to the point. It's true. For some reason, when a presenter has more command of language, the longer it takes for him or her to get to the heart of the matter.

That's why a lot of times when I'm coaching someone I'll say, "You probably write well, don't you?" People who write well tend to speak like they write. They keep adding additional phrases and lengthier descriptions as they deliver the message. They'll say "What's important here, what you really need to understand, what is truly critical to note, in this instance." Ahhhhhhhhh just get to the point!

I'm not saying that poor language skills make for better presenters; instead, full command of the language needs to be regulated in order to entice an audience to want to know more. If you have presenters that drone on and on, make them move through the script more quickly. Teach them three little words to say as quickly as possible: "You may leave."

Media Preferences

One other trait of the presenter has to do with media preference. You may have to develop the message differently based on a particular media type such as 35mm slides, overhead transparencies , or electronic images. If you know the media preference of a presenter, you can develop support for the message accordingly .

For example, for a 20-minute presentation, a person familiar with using PowerPoint to electronically deliver content will need about 35 electronic images. A person preferring overheads needs about 10 transparencies to cover the topic during the same 20 minutes (see the following note). That's because you can't scale overheads like Frisbees to try to change visuals as rapidly as you might advance an electronic show.

As the creator of the message, you may have to make some adjustments. For the person with the electronic show, you might include several builds as part of the 35 impressions ”leaving the presenter some room for stories, analogies , and other grabbers. For the person with the overheads, you may have to fill each transparency with more data ”leaving less time for grabbers. Or, you may make the transparencies with limited data, forcing the presenter to have more in-depth knowledge of the topic since fewer visual cues are available during the presentation.


MediaNet has a software utility called ShowSTARTER , which uses artificial intelligence to help a person plan a presentation. By answering ten simple questions, a ten-page report is available that outlines the visual design, text attributes, proper colors, lead-time , and number of visuals all tied to a selected objective. You can use a free, online mini-version, ShowSTARTER Express, by visiting MediaNet's Web site at this address: www.medianet-ny.com.

Knowing the Particulars of the Audience

Knowing the audience is the most difficult task imaginable. This is why marketing professionals lose sleep at night! Just when they think they can predict the market, the market changes! Although we want to avoid turning analysis into paralysis on this issue, understanding your target audience is very important to the development of the message.

Here's my take on "audiences." I think people are basically the same. I'm not discounting diversity in any way, but I use the philosophy that whatever is true for me in my own heart is probably true for everyone else on a very basic level. Our similarities allow us to share entertainment, sports, and all types of social activities. Our differences are what business presentations try to isolate and somehow address.

Knowing how to target differences in people is important in building effective messages. We can learn more about an audience in several ways including:

  • Direct Contact

  • Demographics

  • Motivators

Direct Contact

The difference between learning the traits of the presenter and knowing particulars of the audience is direct contact. You have greater access to the presenters. They work with you! You can call them, email them, fax them, see them. This interaction helps you understand them.

You may have little contact and interaction with your audience until the presentation is starting. This is not uncommon. It happens a lot, especially to those pitching a new business. However, you may have other presentations in which the same group convenes on a regular basis. This might happen with internal presentations or briefings such as those on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

The more direct contact (experience) you have with a particular audience, the easier it is to design a targeted message. Think about your family, friends , or even coworkers. You know how to handle these groups because you see them more often. Of course, in some situations you may prefer not to see them!


Experience through direct contact is getting harder to gain in the real world. Our lives are getting so busy that many of us just don't have the time to get to know a consistent audience. Be honest, aren't you amazed when you actually reach someone on the phone? You might quickly say, "What? No voice message? You're probably not that busy today, are you?" Direct contact is becoming a rare commodity.

When you can't have direct contact with the audience, you still have to try to define them or categorize them in order to look for differences. This analysis will help you design the right message for the right group. You can use demographics to gather certain information including age, gender, expertise, and culture. Note how these measurements are general and not job-specific.

For example, if your audience is primarily individuals who speak English as a second language, your message may have to be designed in very general and conceptual terms, using fewer details and wordy descriptions.

Nostalgia Theory

Knowing the average age of the audience is a significant piece of information that can be used effectively. The nostalgia theory works like this: Experiences and events that occurred during the mid-teen years (near puberty) are memorable for life. In other words, you can remember more things from when you were about 15 years old than almost any other time in your life. You recall specific songs, political issues, sporting events, and even the first person you fell in love with ”remember?

So, if the average age of the audience is 49 and it's the year 2004, you know they were 15 in the year 1970. References to events from the late '60s and early '70s will be quickly recognized. The end of the Vietnam war, the last songs of the Beatles, Armstrong on the moon, Nixon resigns, and so on. You can reflect on history to develop examples and analogies to support your message.


Motivators are the emotional elements that induce action. Now we're talking about the juicy stuff! Some of the more basic motivators are pride , profit, love, fear, and need.


Although the basic motivators are general, the type of motivator can be more specific. Need may be refined to necessity, obligation, urgency, requirement, or even compulsion. You can fine-tune the motivator, just as you can fine-tune the objective.

Decide which will best motivate your audience and fine-tune your original objective in order to help achieve the emotional response. Stop! You don't change your objective; you only fine-tune it.

How a Motivator Affects the Objective

Let's say your topic is a discussion about sales quotas. The talk is given to different groups such as marketing, senior management, and sales. Initially, you choose the objective "to inform ."

You notice your next presentation of this material is at the annual sales conference. You decide that pride is the motivator for this particular audience, the sales force. You fine-tune the original objective, "to inform," and it becomes "to inspire to great heights."

You inspire by reinforcing the group's accomplishments and encourage them to achieve more. You add individual success stories. You use support information including comparisons to last year, growth in market share, perhaps even a testimonial from the president of the company.

Do you see how influential a motivator can be in the development of the message? Your original objective didn't change. It only became more specific.

You might find that more than one motivator moves an audience at different points in the presentation. You just have to match supporting elements in your script to the motivator that targets the type of response you seek. For example, if the best motivator is profit, a less obvious motivator may be fear. Thus, a chart showing the consequences of overspending may tap fear, while still supporting the underlying motive for profit.

Understanding Filters

People react to information in many ways. What you say and what you show may be quite different from what the audience sees and hears. This happens every day. I say one thing; you hear something different. It's not a matter of who's right ”it's a matter of agreement. Since you can't change this about people, don't even try. Just figure a way to deal with it.

Demographics and motivators affect the way an audience filters or classifies information. Each audience member puts his or her own spin on information based on how data is filtered to the brain.

A filter is the slant you apply to a message to make it your own. When someone says, "The way I see it " you can be sure the person is applying a filter to the information in order to understand it.

The goal is to create a clear message that minimizes the distortion the audience tends to place on information. As we distort messages, we develop barriers because we make personal judgments . For example, when you see a stop sign, you know the message is the same for everyone. When you see a sign that says "Authorized Vehicles Only," you instantly become a member of a distinct group. You then form an opinion about the other group. You begin to question their right to even be authorized! Who are these people and why?

Avoid Clich s

Stereotyping is just one expression of how we filter information. This is a problem in itself because it leads to misconceptions, misunderstanding, and prejudice. Clich s also exist in business, especially when considering organizational duties .

Don't fall into the trap of shaping the message to a job function clich . A group of accountants do not prefer only numbers. Engineers are not limited to processes. Sales and marketing people can handle details.

If the clich s for business were applied to art or entertainment, then there would have to be separate versions for everyone. Can you imagine Gone with the Wind for computer programmers and a different version for financial planners? How about a version of baseball only for doctors called Medicine Ball ?

The job doesn't make the person. The person makes the job. If you changed your profession or industry tomorrow, would you really be a different person than you are today?

Avoid the job title clich . If members of the executive team are expected to be in the audience, the message must be still be created for the entire audience. If the entire audience is only the executive team, then the message is still tailored to the needs of that specific group, based on generalities, not specifics. It wouldn't matter if the CEO likes fishing. If you make every reference about fishing , the remainder of the group is likely to miss the boat! Job titles may cause anxiety for the messenger, not the message.

I avoid clich s like the plague. They're old hat. They end up making a mountain out of a molehill.

Since filters exist, a good script finds ways of overcoming those filters. Table 24.1 shows some examples of where filters are used by the audience and the method used to break through the filter.

Table 24.1. Handling Demographic Filters


Method for Breaking Through Filter


Simplify the words


Appeal to generation styles


Avoid stereotypes


Adjust conceptual complexity

For example, in the preceding table, the filters associated with the demographic of age may be addressed by using analogies, references, and other data that earmark a cross section of the audience by generation. You would have less reason to make a comparison of events from the 1950s if the audience is composed of recent college graduates.

Audiences apply their own filters to motivators, too. People put unique slants on emotional responses. After all, who can truly agree on how fear or pride affects any individual? The abstract concepts associated with any motivator leads to very subjective viewpoints for each person experiencing that motivator at any given time. Thus, each person applies a filter to a motivational element based on given circumstances and conditions prevailing at the time. Table 24.2 shows how to handle motivational filters.

Table 24.2. Handling Motivational Filters


Method for Breaking Through Filter


Show comparisons and achievement


Use reassurance and historical data


Offer reachable goals


Demonstrate teamwork


Meet with urgency

For example, when a company is faced with a crisis situation and the employees are motivated by fear, the initial effort should be to reassure by pointing to how such situations were dealt with in the past, as opposed to immediately suggesting alternatives for the future. Stop the bleeding before you recommend a new brand of bandages.

Special Edition Using Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003
Special Edition Using Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003
ISBN: 0789729571
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 261

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