My colleagues and I speak all the time about the importance of “knowing your audience.” And many people nod when they hear us discuss this, because we are certainly not the only people who preach this principle. But even though lots of people know about the concept, lots of people also don’t do it very well.
For example, we hear all the time the following question: “But what am I supposed to do if I have never met them before?” And our answer is usually some version of, “Let us introduce you to this new thing called the internet.” (Well, we are never that sarcastic, but sometimes I wish we could be.)
So, let me dial down the snarky comments, and instead encourage you to think about your audience preparation in multiple stages:
- Of course, start with your own knowledge of the person. This is self-explanatory, and a topic we have written about before. But you start here.
- If that step doesn’t get you very far, then start asking around. Do you know anyone else who knows the person (or people)? Anyone who has worked with them before? Anyone who has met with, presented or pitched to them before? Find out their perspective.
- Look online, and read whatever you can find… LinkedIn, their company website, publicly available news or information. There is a LOT out there.
Sometimes it can be harder. In fact, today, I am about to teach a workshop for a client who does not, as a matter of practice, release the names of workshop participants to us ahead of time. The first time we learn the names is the moment we walk into the room.
So how do you prepare for that kind of situation? Well, since my individual participant knowledge will be essentially zero, instead, I dial up my effort to know more about their company, and their industry. What is the latest news about the company? What might a person inside this organization be feeling right now? What is going on in their industry? What is the publicly traded stock price doing?
In other words, I look for anything at all on the company or industry level to try and anticipate what the people I am about to work with will be thinking about. Is the company and industry research enough? Of course, actual knowledge of the individuals is always better. But if this is all you have, then leverage that any way you can.
Most people don’t try nearly hard enough to prepare for their meetings, conference calls and presentations. Most people don’t do nearly enough audience prep. Don’t let that be you. Strong preparation, and strong audience knowledge creates significant competitive advantage.