By Lynne Schinella, conference speaker and speaker coach

For big and small groups, good presentations are all about knowing the audience, explains Lynne Schinella.

A couple of issues ago I wrote a piece about speaking to large audiences. Which was very helpful, I must say, except if you never speak to large audiences. Maybe you’re the one on one kind of person, or perhaps find yourself presenting an idea to just two or four people. What then?

Given that most of our business conversations are about moving people from their point of view around to our point of view, it helps to understand how different human beings like to receive their information. I have a simple behavioural profiling system some of you may have stumbled across where I talk in terms of Apples, Mangoes, Limes and Bananas. I’m going to use them for an uncomplicated look at how people want you to communicate.

Apples like direct conversation, facts backed up with evidence, little or no small talk and bullet points. They are focused on the result you can deliver. They want you to hit them upfront with the big idea – I want four weeks off at a critical time of year – backed up by reason. Many of us make the mistake of taking too long to frame context with these people, and by the time you get to your key point, their head, if not their body, has left the building.

Mangoes want enthusiasm, passion and fun. Build pictures with words, use visuals, take their imagination into a place where they can see success. You’ll need to move fast because their susceptibility for distraction can kick in at any time.

Limes, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They need facts, presented in a logical and deliberate manner, and loads of detail to back it up. They want to see precedents, proof that something has worked before. They need time to digest the information.

Bananas need to see why they should buy in, and for this they’d prefer to have a relationship with you, no matter how new. They need to be able to imagine themselves as part of your story and respond well to tactile material in a presentation. They want to chat, to feel good about the presentation.

So how do you know who’s what? How do you prepare?

If you don’t know all the people you’re presenting to, first do a bit of online stalking. You won’t find much on Limes because they’re so private. Mangoes will definitely be all over Facebook. Apples will have a LI profile that lists all their achievements. And Bananas on FB are all about family and animals.

If you know your audience, you should know what works with them and what doesn’t.

But a basic rule of thumb is that if one person is a key decision-maker over others, skew your presentation to them. But be sure. Sometimes the quietest person in the room with no title is the decision maker. (Especially true of our Asian friends).

Otherwise you must create an offering that will have appeal across the board. Understand that you will never have everyone loving every minute of your presentation. The objective is that you offer something for everyone.

Focus on small talk and quick connections with those who shake your hand warmly and give you eye contact (Mango and Banana alert).

Human beings are hardwired to relax and connect with story, so start with one and you’ll engage pretty much everybody, but especially Mangoes and Bananas. However, if you want to keep Apples and Limes engaged you’d better make the story quick and relevant. It may come in the form of a video of a past success. Just keep it snappy.

Speak in a Goldilocks paced tone – not too fast for Limes and not too slow for Apples. Present hard factual results for both of them, with top level charts and graphs, but don’t overload with detail. Save this by sending a soft copy of all support detail after the presentation so the Limes will have time to go through it.

Don’t pass material around to look at because they will read it. Instead pass objects that Bananas can feel and relate to.

And remember, stick to time or finish early. I wish that presentation had gone all day, said no one, ever.