For most people, public speaking is a challenge, but even once you’ve mastered the techniques, and the part about just getting up there, you're work isn’t done.

The most common mistake I find in clients I coach about presenting is failing to grasp this concept: When you're giving a presentation, you're not talking about XYZ, you're communicating to a group of individuals. Arrive early before your presentation and visit with the individuals as they arrive. You'll find out all sorts of things you need to know that can help you stand out among presenters. Everyone knows their topic -- or should, and know how to give a presentation (or should), but it's knowing how to work the particular and unique group in front of you that gets you asked back, gets you business, and builds your reputation.

The 15 minutes you spend mingling, make the difference! (And BTW, don't rely on what you were told about this group. It's rarely reliable, and it isn't specific to your needs. Find our for yourself.)

1. Find out why they came.
Ask questions such as "What brings you here?" WHY questions are never good to ask. People don't know, and/or it raises defenses. Any other personal information you can gather will make your speech more effective, and also gives you hints as to which of your services and products they'd be most likely to need and to buy.

2. Find out what they expect you to talk about.
You'll be surprised!

3. Get first and last names to use later in your presentation, and find out about their organization or group. You'll be able to work this into allusions and metaphors.

4. Find out who the officers are in the group.
Mentioning their name later on will bring cohesiveness to your talk and involve your audience.

5. Find out where they heard or read about the presentation.
You need this for marketing.

6. Step back and tune into your instincts to get the 'feel' of the group. Are they introspective, annoyed about a common issue, friendly with one another? Is it high energy or low energy? You can adjust your presentation accordingly - wake them up if they're asleep, soothe them if they're agitated.

7. Watch to see who the real leaders are. They're often not the official leaders. They are the "influencers" who will get you invited back or not.

8. Check out the introversion/extroversion scale. This will tell you how to manage interactive exercises. Introverts are less likely to want to participate, likely to prefer the partner they came with, less eager to respond to questions out loud, and dislike stating the obvious. Extroverts will participate more eagerly, but may be harder to manage and keep on-task.

9. Listen for clues as to who's good at what, and what fields they're in. You may need help with the projector. If you’ve got a Ph.D. in the group, you’ll need to pin down your data tighter. You can discover the extrovert who'll be enthusiastic about answering a question or when you need a volunteer.

11. Get the local newspaper and check if you’re speaking out of town, and pump the cab driver. I once arrived to give a talk in Seattle right after a number of firefighters had lost their lives which had stunned the community. The cab driver told me all about it, and I was able to, (1) resonate with the audience, and (2) work many examples into my talk.

Know your subject, know how to present, and most of all, know your particular audience.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Dunn, M.A., is a professional coach who helps her clients grow in their professional and personal lives. Visit her on the web at or for free ezine, "It's About My Personal and Professional Development."