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Know your audience

How do you connect with people in the room? Jim Steele and Helen Sewell explain the importance of tailoring your message to your audience and how eye contact engages people.

At the heart of a successful pitch is being able to demonstrate the benefits for the person to whom you’re pitching. But the way you execute your pitch will vary greatly depending on who the recipient is. From job role to personality type, you need to adjust your pitch to meet the needs of your audience, explains performance coach Jim Steele.

Who’s in the audience?

When you’re considering the potential make up of an audience it can be helpful to think about the different personality types you could be speaking to.

Driver - this would typically be a CEO who will want you to get to the point quickly. Show them the big picture and how you’re going to get there. Providing too much detail and analysis at the pitch stage might frustrate them.

Analytical - this might be CFO or finance director. They will be focused on the numbers and the fine details. They will want to see evidence to back up your points, and some thorough analysis.

Amiable - this personality type will want to know what the impact will be on the people in their organisation. How will your product or service improve the working lives of their staff? They may be an HR director, for example.

Expressive - likely to be involved in marketing or sales, they will want to be impressed by the new, innovative ideas in your pitch and be given some options to choose from. Catering to all these personality types in one 15 minute pitch is no easy task, but having a clear idea of how people may react to what you are saying and how you are saying it can be very powerful for you.

Think about pace

Just as your audience will contain different personality types, so will preference around the pace of your presentation differ. It’s human nature to want to get through a presentation quickly and then breathe a sigh of relief. But some people will want you to slow the pace down and allow time for questions and further consideration of the points you’re making. Others, of course, will want you to get through the presentation quickly. You need to be prepared to change the pace to suit your audience and how they are reacting.

Don’t assume knowledge

You know your business inside out and have a very clear idea of the points you want to make and the most important message that you want to get across. Your audience does not share that knowledge so you need to be very clear and signpost the most important elements of your presentation. Just because you see something in your business or presentation, doesn’t mean your audience will.

Make it conversational

Don’t pitch in the traditional sense of the word. Your job is to listen to the needs of your potential new client or customer, and figure out very quickly if you can help and add value. Customisation is all about having a real conversation and doing more listening than talking.