PSU Insight

Preparation is the Key

PPQ — Expectations and Comparisons

Comparisons are inevitable, so it's best to be prepared for them —

  • What speakers have you used in the past? What did they speak on? How were they received / remembered?

  • What other speakers will be presenting at this meeting? What will they speak on? Are they speaking before or after my presentation?

The first set of questions helps you determine your audience’s expectations. For example, if last year’s speaker was a “rah rah” high-energy motivational speaker, your audience might expect you to be similar. If you have a low-key conversational style of speaking and your audience is expecting something different from that, your presentation could have problems if you're not prepared.

Or if last year’s speaker was a master of the thigh-slapping joke, and you’re more of a laid-back speaker who tells exquisitely detailed stories, your audience could be in for a rude awakening if you don’t change their expectations beforehand.

There are a number of ways to change your audience’s expectations. You can ensure that your audience members understand what they’ll be hearing ahead of time — both in terms of content and style. You can emphasize the benefits of your style of speaking in your promotional materials. You may even want to change your standard introduction to help change your audience’s expectations of what they’re about to hear.

The second set of questions concerns other speakers at the same meeting. The purpose of these questions is similar to the first set — but it’s not so much the audience’s expectations that you need to be concerned with, as it is their mindset.

If they’ve just heard a high-energy speaker a few minutes before you, you might want to raise the energy of the beginning of your presentation a little bit. If they’ve just heard a humorist, you might want to make the beginning of your program a bit more entertaining. (Not necessarily funnier — more entertaining!)

You don’t necessarily want to be similar to other speakers that your audience has heard. In fact, that can be a bad idea — you might prefer to stand out in contrast instead.

But you can’t do anything until you have a better idea of how other speakers are going to be influencing your audience’s mindset and setting their expectations.