• open panel

Getting to Know Your Audience, Prospects, and Clients – Part 1 – Old School


I attended a round table event of Chief Information Officers where a brave young man came to the audience microphone and asked the panel, how do you like to work with vendors.  The audience and the panel chuckled at the question – though the many vendors in the audience (myself included) leaned forward, eager to hear the reply.

“The internet works both ways,” said one of the panelist.  “Do your homework.”

With the free flow of information on the Internet, there are more and more ways to find out about your clients, your prospects or any audience you want to address.  Social media has added yet another twist to the equation.  But we mustn’t forget the “old school” ways of finding out about our audiences either.  In my posts today and tomorrow, I’ll cover eleven ways to find out more about any audience.  Today, let’s start with the old school ways.

Old School Approaches

The Organization Web Site

There’s nothing quite like seeing what an organization has to say about itself.  A hit to the “Press Releases” tab and BAM there is the information that the organization wants the general public to know.  The “About Us” page often will include the history of the organization, bios of key members of the organization, organization goals and vision, guiding principles, and more.  Everyone assumes that you have read their web site, so read it!   You may walk away knowing more about the organization than half its members!

Networking Events

Go to the places where your audience, prospects, and clients hang out.  Attend chamber events, professional associations meetings, open networking events, and anywhere else the people you’re trying to reach are likely to hang out.  Listen to the topics presented.  Find out what they care about.  Look for the “n & n” clues – places where they nod and take notes as they listen.  Find out what messages resonate with them.

Ask Them

I know… it seems too obvious, right?  Find out about people by asking them about themselves…?  Yes!

People LOVE to talk about themselves.  Start a conversation, and then be a very good listener.  Ask them about their opinions, their experience, their struggles.  It’s flattering to be asked to talk about yourself.  You’ll be amazed at what your audience, your prospects and your clients will tell you if you just ask them!

Listen to Them

Don’t wait for your turn to talk.  Don’t assume you know what they’re going to say.  Don’t try to solve their problems then and there.  Instead be present.  Listen to what the prospect is saying.  Ask for clarifications.  Work to understand what’s important to them and only after you understand, then consider if you’re the person who can help.


This is probably obvious.  You probably already googled the organization to find their web site.  A Google search will also reveal articles from other sources about the organization and potentially Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, Twitter accounts, and YouTube video that we’ll cover in the Social Media new school approaches in the next post.  Look for happy customers.  Unhappy customer.  You never know what may show up.  But you’re sure to get additional information that can help you get to know your audience, prospects and clients better.

The Person Who Owns the Meeting

If you’re speaking to an organization – as in a formal presentation for a professional association or a sales demonstration for a prospect – talk to the person who invited you.  Find out from the meeting leader why they decided to bring you in and why they believe the audience, prospect, or client is interested in what you have to say.  Ask that person what they hope the audience will feel, see, or do differently as a result of the meeting.  This will help you get to know the motivations of the person planning the meeting and what they think is important for the group.

Additionally, ask the person leading the meeting about the group.  Find out demographic information such as gender, age, roles, etc. of the people who will be attending the meeting.  Find out what do they have in common.  How are they different?  Knowing about the background of the people you’ll be speaking to will help you to know how to approach the material, what examples or analogies will work best with the audience, etc.

Ask for Names and Contact Information of Some Meeting Attendees


While the person leading the meeting will give you valuable information about the group, ask if you can also speak to some of the members of the group as well.  Get their input as to what’s important and what they want to get out of the meeting.  This will also give you a chance to validate assumptions.

Other “Old School” Ways?


What else and I missing?  Add them to the comments below.

Next post – Social Media Approaches to getting to know your audience!



  1. […] #4 – Getting to Know Your Audience, Prospects, and Clients – Part 1 – Old School […]