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Four questions to answer before speaking to any audience

It was "Meet the Teacher Night" at the High School for my wife and I before the school year started.  My son was an incoming freshman this year.  My wife and I made our rounds from one classroom to another, following my son's new class schedule.  We were excited for him starting this next chapter in his life and we were a little excited ourselves to meet the teachers who would be educating our son over the next 9 months.

Our first class was World Geography and the teacher began her 10-minute timeframe with us by firing up the old slide show.  Slide by slide, and line by line, she read each bullet to us.  My enthusiasm began to wane as one class after another, teachers would read bullets of information that just as easily could have been sent to us in an email.  Unfortunately, the title for the evening, "Meet the Teacher" did not live up to my expectations.

So how can we make sure our audiences always get what they came for?  Prepare your message by answering four simple questions.

Question #1: Why is the audience listening?

Sure the speaker speaks for a reason, a goal, a purpose, but the more important question is, “Why did the audience show up?  Why did they come to listen?” What is the audience expecting from the speaker? What do they expect to gain or learn from attending? What do they want? The audience came for a reason. Give them what they came for and you will satisfy them every time. Know their expectation, then meet it or beat it.

Question #2: What do you want the audience to know when you are done?

What is the audience expecting to learn from attending your presentation? While it is true that some speakers speak to an audience to purely entertain them, in most cases, the audience expects to learn something from attending. Know what the audience wants to learn and then make certain you deliver the information with interpretations, explanations, and applications to develop their full understanding.

Question #3: How do you want the audience to feel about your topic?

In business we don’t often focus on feelings because this is business! We stay focused on the bottom line and making well-informed, logical decisions based on research. While you will get no disagreement from me on making informed decisions in business, we cannot discount the fact that we are speaking to humans. All humans have feelings, yes, even you. That is part of what makes us human. Do you want the audience to feel excited, proud, confident, humbled, appreciative, inspired? When you know the feelings you hope to generate, you can develop your message to align with those emotions.

Question #4: What do you expect the audience to do after attending?

If you give them what they came for, you have informed them thoroughly, and you have generated the desired feeling, the audience will want to know the next step. What do they need to do once they leave your meeting or presentation? What do you want them to do? When an audience can logically agree with your information and they have a strong feeling associated with it, they are much more likely to take the next step as long as they know what that step is. Make sure you define the next step for them. The easier you make the next step, the more likely the audience is to take it.

You see it in TV Commercials all the time!

The next time you’re watching television, don’t step into the kitchen during the commercials. Instead, take note of the three elements all good advertisers place into their 30-second presentations. Ask yourself these three questions as you watch the commercial.

  1. What does this company want me to know about their company/product/service?
  2. What do they want me to feel about the product / service?
  3. What do they want me to do?

When speaking to your audience, never forget your audience came for a reason. Give them what they came for! The speaker doesn’t speak for the speaker; the speaker always speaks for the audience!

Russ Peterson Jr_Headshot2

Russ Peterson Jr. (@RussPetersonJr) is an award-winning international trainer and professional speaker for iSpeak, Inc. ( He’s also the co-author of Corporate Ovations: Your roadmap to more effective presentations. (

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