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The Secret to Effective Business Presentations

The secret to effective business presentations

Most books on giving effective and professional presentations provide a wide range of advice about how to perform them more successfully. This includes preparing carefully at every level, knowing your topic well, setting up the venue and equipment you will be using carefully, maintaining good eye contact with your audience, staying calm and relaxed and keeping your presentation as interesting and lively as you can (and not so long that people lose focus).

There is one presentation factor that matters most

While all of this advice is individually important and needs to be at least part of the overall effort to lift performance to better levels, there is one factor that matters more than all of the others put together in how to give a better presentation. In fact, it is so important we call it the secret to effective business presentations.

And the secret to effective business presentations is…

So what is this key secret that so many presenters forget completely or give too little time and attention to? It is the absolutely crucial need to consider the audience the presentation is designed to address.

How do you consider your audience?

One of the best ways to consider your audience’s needs is to make sure you have clear answers to a range questions that you can start to hone for yourself.

These will be questions such as:

  • How many people are going to be there?
  • Who are they? (What jobs do they do? How senior are they? Do they come from different areas/departments?)
  • What are they likely to broadly know already about your presentation subject area?
  • What are they likely to expect from you? Alternatively, ask yourself here what’s in it for them to give up their time and attention to listen to you?
  • Is the subject area for your presentation likely to be positively or negatively received, and why?
  • Do any individuals in an audience have any special requirements or information you need to cover?

Research your audience

Knowing your audience and their particular needs each time you present helps in all sorts of ways. It shows that you are professional – that you have done your research and that you really care about your audience and their needs. They will pick this up and will be much more likely to respond more warmly and/or empathetically to you. Careful audience research also helps to prevent you from offering irrelevant information, gratuitous detail that will not be appreciated and even relating inappropriate stories or making the wrong references.

Help your audience meet their goals and objectives

While your objective and aims for giving your presentation may be crystal clear to you, it is critical to remember that your audience will have their own goals and objectives for attending your presentation at an individual level. Hence, one of the major challenges is to ensure that your presentation will help them to achieve their ends whilst also meeting your own. This can only be done if you evaluate your audience with as much care and attention as you can and make intelligent estimates about what their needs and wants might be well before you design your presentation and start to put your message across.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. lale turanDecember 22, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    It is so true that knowing your audience is one the most important aspects of your preparing a presentation.

    Knowing your audience will give you the opportunity to organize the tone, depth, topic, style and length of your presentation effectively and proactively – especially if your plan is to sell refrigerators to Eskimos 🙂

    Great Blog – looking forward to more insights.

  2. Peter UreyAugust 13, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Hi Jon,

    Some good ideas in your post.

    Would you mind if I copy the URL into my online coaching course for nervous speakers:

    You can view it FREE with Coupon Code PStFW001 under Redeem a Coupon

    Would be good to get your comments.

    If you think the material could be of value we could create a discount coupon for your followers.


    Peter Urey

    • Dr. Jon WarnerAugust 13, 2013 at 6:43 pmAuthor

      Yes I am happy for you to do that Peter

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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