Before I leave the topic of getting to know your audience beforehand, I wanted to say one last thing about a situation that seems to be everyone’s worst nightmare: last minute requests to speak at work meetings. Since this subject is one of the ones I am most asked about, I wanted to spend a minute on it before we change gears.
There are lots of things that can help with an off-the-cuff situation like this. If you’ve been a regular reader here, hopefully you know a little something of how to craft your message and how to present yourself – that will help you have more confidence in all situations. But for now I want to just want to discuss this situation from a “know your audience” perspective. The first thing to remember is that even if you are taken unawares, you still want to stick to the principle of trying to know as much about your audience beforehand as you can. The easy part of this is that in the case of a business or staff meeting, you almost always already know who is in your audience.
In addition to that, you usually know when you’re going to get called on or what the topic is the meeting is. So bear that in mind and take a half hour before the meeting to gather your thoughts, think about your audience and figure out what they need to or want to hear about from you there. Then write a few notes – the usual three main points and whatever supporting facts you need – on the top page of the notepad you plan on bringing in. That way you’ll be prepared in advance, you’ll speak to your audience, and you won’t be surprised. You will not only meet your audience’s needs but you’ll look incredibly on-the-ball and professional.