Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Get Prior Information on your Audience

I recently published some Pointers for Presenters of genealogy talks, seminars etc. This post received quite a number of comments one of which asked me "Would you be able to elaborate, please, on your suggestion 'Get prior information on your audience'?"

What I am suggesting in this pointer is to find out as much as you can about the audience for your talk before you prepare.  The talk can then be pitched towards the interests of and levels of knowledge of the audience. One size does not fit all.

Are you talking to a group of professional genealogists, members of a local family history society or a group of wouldbe beginner family historians at the local senior citizens club or public library? Perhaps you are speaking to a group of young people as part of a co-curricular activity in a school or a genealogy group who use computers for genealogy. One will never find a totally homogeneous group but can often identify some common traits in a group.

By liaising with the host/organisers of the talk you might be able to find out if your audience has any shared interests eg genealogy in a particular location or ethnic group. You can then illustrate your talk with examples that will resonate with them; this will create an affinity with the audience.

If yours is one of a series of talks you can ask the host about the type of people who have attended previous sessions. This may help with appropriate language for the situation: sophisticated and technical for the professional genealogists or simplified with no jargon for a beginner group.

Additionally by noting where and how the event is being promoted you may gain some clues about your audience. If the event is only publicised via Facebook and Twitter one would expect an audience that is more au fait with technology.

Find out how your talk is being promoted. Is the audience expecting to be entertained, informed, persuaded or educated?

In an ideal world one would always be able to glean much information about a prospective audience. This is not always possible but, where one has an opportunity gain prior knowledge on their audience and tailor the talk appropriately, I believe that the presentation will be more effective and entertaining and more likely to be heeded.


Thomas MacEntee said...

Very good points. Also, one thing I always do when I am presenting: show up early and interact with the audience. Ask questions, take the pulse of the audience, get an idea of what their expectations are.

I can then work some of these issues into the presentation if I haven't already covered them.

I discuss this and other tips in my new book on genealogy speaking, Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker.

Anonymous said...

You explained this very well and gave me some useful ideas for my genealogy talks. Thanks!

Judy Webster


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