The confident presenter asks: “Who goes there?”

Imagine you’re invited to speak about your profession to a group of sixth-formers who are contemplating their careers. You then give a similar introduction about yourself to a networking meeting. The next day you are inducting a new member of your team. Would you deliver similarly or differently to each?


When clients come to me to work on a presentation, they often focus on the content, which is of course vital. However, also important is the delivery: the style, the language, the pacing, and the enthusiasm. 

Whether you’re addressing one or 101 people, the creation and maintenance of the relationship with your audience is key. This means being at one with your audience, speaking in a manner that they can relate to and in a language they will understand. 

Therefore, it is important and beneficial to learn all you can about your audience before preparing your speech or presentation.

Who is my audience?

If you are speaking in-house, you will have access to who is attending. You could send them information in advance about the objectives of the presentation and what you’ll be covering, so they know what to expect. Audiences are likely to feel dissatisfied if their expectations aren’t met, so the opportunity to clarify your purpose and summarise what you’ll cover will be a great help in pre-empting this.

The best people to find out from are the people themselves. If your presentation is for training purposes, find out in advance and/or at the start of the training. You are then able to clarify what you will and won’t cover, stating confidently what is or is not within the remit of the programme. 

Sometimes you may be able to talk in advance to a manager or team leader about the needs of their staff attending a presentation. However, it’s important to be aware that the needs expressed by the manager may be only part of the story and can even conflict with the needs expressed at the session. This requires a delicate balance in aiming to meet different sets of needs whilst keeping in mind the objectives of the person who has requested the training or presentation. You might write to everyone in advance; circumstances could also change by the time you meet.

However, if you are addressing a group of people who have come independently to a meeting, and you are not the meeting organiser, you don’t have that direct contact beforehand. Find out in general terms from the organiser the reasons the audience is attending and ask the organiser to provide you with information. Look at any notices sent out about the meeting and check for posts and conversations on social media. Another option is to obtain feedback from people who’ve given talks in the past to this audience. 

If your speech is to be within your company, find out the names, departments, and status of those attending, their likely expectations, experience, prior knowledge and status and role in the company and how long they’ve been in that role. How much you can find out may of course depend on the numbers attending but it will at least help for example to know about seniority and levels of knowledge.

If it’s a panel discussion, check who else is speaking, what areas or angles they’ll cover, and their views and opinions. The panel are also your listeners, so it will help to be prepared for differences and counterarguments.

What factors might affect your approach?

If you reconsider the questions in the opening paragraph of this article, you will see that each of these audiences requires a different approach. There are multiple factors that affect the way you deliver. These include: 

  • age range
  • educational background
  • new or experienced staff
  • cultural mix
  • first language, or not
  • for or against you; their attitude towards the subject
  • lay or professional, generalist or specialist

Help your audience!

There are clear benefits in knowing who is attending and the reasons they have come to listen to you. Are they there voluntarily? Have they been sent? This knowledge helps you plan what to say and how to convey it. It helps you help your audience by pitching the content at the right level and choosing accessible language and terminology as well as the angle you give to your topic.

There is much you can do to assist your audience and help them follow your plot! You want to ensure that you are truly inclusive. For example, you can:

  • Check for understanding at the outset, and ensure the audience can hear you.
  • Say at the start people are welcome to ask questions for clarification, even if you want them to save other questions for the end.
  • Watch the audience for signs that someone can’t hear or understand.
  • Provide a glossary of terms that could be unfamiliar.
  • Avoid abbreviations that some may not know.
  • Speak at a comfortable pace, easy to follow but don’t put them to sleep.
  • Briefly pause from time to time, to allow them to digest what you’ve said.
  • Let them know they are welcome to contribute and put their views and when they can do that.

In helping them, you will also be helping yourself, by meeting expectations and keeping your audience with you.

These three steps help you to plan and approach your presentation with confidence

If you feel one-to-one public speaking coaching would be helpful to address speaking nerves or develop your confidence and style as a speaker, presenter or trainer, do get in touch. You are also welcome to sign up to receive my newsletters for occasional tips and advice about a range of confidence and personal development topics.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, NW11
Written by Lucy Seifert, Life Coach London
London, NW11

Our personal challenges can affect us at home, work and in our relationships. My 30 years of coaching and training experience help you build confidence and design strategies to make positive changes. You’ll find that I have a warm coaching style, with integrity and professionalism. Also, I’ve authored five books about coaching and assertiveness.

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