Creative Commons Image by Pete Prodoehl

I presented a workshop on employee engagement at a national conference last summer.   I spent sufficient time preparing my content, flow, and dare I say, sensational PowerPoint slides.  Ready, aim, fire.

Or was it ready, fire, aim?

As a presentation coach, I know how important it is to do your homework on who will be in the audience. It can be the determining factor in achieving your goals.  I was confident that I knew the type of professional who would attend the conference and no additional research was needed.


Turns out, a bit more effort on my part would have paid big dividends.  I ended up with a VIP in my session and I didn’t know it.  This means that I did not make any changes to my approach or content that otherwise would have helped me connect with this person and add to my credibility.  The workshop evaluations were all very positive except for one.  Turns out that my VIP felt that the content was too low level and therefore he did not learn anything.

A big deal?  On that particular day it certainly was.  Had I asked for a list of conferees before my session, I would have been tipped off to the possibility of his being in attendance and therefore would have made several adjustments.  Fortunately for me, there was a networking reception later that day and I was able to have a meaningful conversation with this individual which helped me establish my “street cred.”  We ended up exchanging business cards.

So, the next time you are preparing for an important presentation, don’t assume.  Make the effort to get as much information as you can about your audience.  Your reputation is at stake.

– Barbara Roche