Five-minute management idea: audience-focused presenting

01 December 2017 -

MBOYA weekly shot of new thinking for business leaders: a 37-year-old named Orla could be the key to your presentations

Guest blogger Emma Ledden

Nervous about a forthcoming presentation? Imagine communicating information to three million people. In my career as a television presenter for BBC and MTV, this was my role.

Creating presentations has become a large part of many managers’ job descriptions, although very few receive formal training in how to do this. The majority of individuals will rely on slide-focused presenting and it’s my view that this method leaves an audience confused, frustrated or jaded.


Early in my media career I went to work for a radio station. On my very first day I was given a piece of paper with some writing on it. I was told no matter what I was talking about, ever, I had to make sure I was talking about it in relation to Orla. Orla was my audience.



I was always aware every television or radio show I worked on had a specific, segmented target audience they aimed the programme at, but I had never seen it written down so clearly.

Orla was our ‘listener persona’. She was a single representation of the whole audience the show was aimed at. Every time I presented, I needed to keep her in mind. I developed an approach I now call Audience-Focused Presenting.

To use it, you need to profile your audience.


Audience Profiling is the act of knowing in as much detail as possible. Ask yourself the ten questions below:

How many people will be attending your presentation?

Who, specifically, are they?

If it is a mixed audience who is your specific target audience?

Are they required to be there or are they there by choice?

What does the audience already know about you and your topic?

What do they need to know in order for you to achieve your goal?

How would you describe the audience’s current feelings about your topic?

Will your target audience support or resist your topic and why?

From the perspective of the audience, why should they care about your presentation?

If your target audience was designing your presentation what three themes would they cover?

If you are unable to answer these questions yourself, reach out to a representative of your audience or gain some insight from a colleague. In most presentation situations, it is completely acceptable to ask your audience what they need from you, before you begin.

Once you have profiled your audience you can master the two further steps of audience-focused presenting: structure your messages powerfully, and design useful visual aids.

This storytelling framework will provide an organised way for any presenter to effectively prepare and deliver best-in-class presentations to any audience.

More details on audience-focused presenting are available in The Presentation Book 2nd edition. It is published by Pearson. It is nominated for CMI Management Book of the Year 2017/2018 in the New Manager category. For more information see

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