Every PowerPoint expert knows that the first step to creating a presentation, after establishing the general topic, is analyzing your audience. Your audience will determine everything from language, to the number and types of visuals, to the amount of background information, to even the length of the presentation itself. Although we, either consciously or unconsciously, adjust ourselves and our language when communicating with different audiences all the time, conducting a formal audience analysis can be very useful while in the process of structuring a PowerPoint presentation, since you will have a more concrete idea of the audience to which you will be catering.
As you may have gleaned from advertising, knowing your audience demographics is absolutely essential. So, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself regarding your audience’s demographics: Will my audience consist of people from a range of backgrounds, or will they be from very similar ones? What will the age, gender, ethnicity, political and religious affiliation, and socio-economic status of my audience be? Will any of these things impact the message I communicate? What will my relationship to my audience be? The demographic of your audience will certainly impact the language you use, the number of visuals you use, and perhaps even the length of your presentation. If you are presenting to an audience of largely Baptist Christians, for example, you may want to adopt the rhetoric and language of preaching, if relevant and useful for your topic. If you are presenting to an audience of children or the elderly, on the other hand, you may want to use many engaging visuals and simple, straightforward language, and perhaps make your presentation briefer than you would if you were presenting to working adults. This is of course not to encourage discrimination or stereotyping; it is merely a suggestion that you consider your audience’s backgrounds and adjust accordingly in order to better meet their needs.
In addition to demographics, it is also important to consider your audience’s disposition. It thus may help to ask the following questions: What will my audience’s expectations of and attitudes toward me and my topic be? What concerns or problems will they have, if any? What will their interests and goals be? What about their needs? Will they have any biases? If you are presenting to an audience of people who disagree with you, then you may want to adopt a language that is unbiased or even mollifying. If you are presenting to an audience of people who have certain goals, then you may want to use visuals that encourage or represent the achievement of those goals. Essentially, you want to think of who your audience is before your presentation, and how you may want to change or influence their attitudes in the process of it.
When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, knowledge may be the most important factor of audience analysis, since it will impact almost every aspect of the presentation structure and format. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself regarding your audience’s knowledge: Will my audience have similar knowledge of my topic, and how much will they already know?
What new information will they benefit from? How will I balance presenting ideas that will be sophisticated but not too complex, understandable but not overly simplistic? The amount of background information you include on your topic will, obviously, be determined by your audience’s knowledge. In addition, the language you use will also largely be determined by their knowledge. For example, if you are presenting to a niche audience, then you will likely be able to use jargon without worrying about whether they will understand it. A more general audience, on the other hand, will need any jargon explained to them. Further, if you are presenting to a general audience, you will want to use a variety of visuals to illustrate information they may be encountering for the first time. Therefore, demographics, disposition, and knowledge are all considerations that must be taken into account when conducting an audience analysis.