How to Present to Different Types of Audiences

Published on
December 2, 2020
If you have ever had to deliver a PowerPoint presentation in front of a group of people, you’ll know the importance of catering to your audience.

This can be difficult to do when you have no way of predicting how your audience will respond to you, so we’ve narrowed down the types of audiences you may come across and how you can prepare for each one.

Knowing how to approach different audiences is an important skill to develop as you plan your presentation. When you come across an unsympathetic group, being confident, charismatic, and knowledgeable is not always enough.

Knowing how to adapt to any type of audience will allow you to plan your presentation strategically so that no matter who you are presenting to, your delivery is powerful and effective.

Groups of people generally fit into four types of audiences, each with their own set of presentation tips—bear these in mind for the next time you present so you can keep your audience engaged.

Presentation tips for friendly audiences

When you prepare for a presentation, the hope is that your audience will be a friendly one.

This type of audience will be agreeable and receptive to your presentation. Whether they agree with your content or not, they will remain friendly, conversational, and engaged.

Don’t get too comfortable

It is easy to get too comfortable in front of a friendly audience and soften your delivery. When you become too relaxed, you increase your chances of leaving out key details, which negatively affects the overall value you project through the presentation.

Just because your audience is friendly does not mean they are already sold on your ideas. Be careful not to soften the delivery of what would otherwise be a strong presentation.

When a friendly audience shows interest in your presentation, use this to your advantage. Don’t downplay the importance of your message—instead leverage their interest in a way that encourages them to further invest in your mission and take action.

Presentation tips for apathetic audiences

An apathetic audience shows no interest in what you’re presenting. They feel no connection, they show no enthusiasm or concern, and they are indifferent to what you have to say.

Get to know your audience

The first step to working with an apathetic audience is understanding why they are uninterested. Have you connected the material to something they are involved in? Are you talking about things that are relevant to them?

You may be presenting with the wrong approach. Certain presentation styles may not be effective for every audience—this is why it is important to get to know who you’re presenting to beforehand.

Consider who will be attending your presentation and how you can tailor it to meet their needs. For instance, if you’re giving a sales pitch to the president of a company, clearly draw the connection between what you are selling and how it will benefit them. This will increase your chances of holding the audience’s attention, which will help you feel more confident as you deliver your presentation.

Give your audience time

For some audiences, you simply need to power through your presentation until they reach a point of understanding. Even when your presentation is well thought-out and detailed, it may just take the audience some time to buy in to what you are trying to pitch.

Use enticing visuals

Strong visuals are an effective way to win over an apathetic audience. Images, videos, and other visual elements can go a long way in creating a presentation that is stimulating and appealing. Take a look at some of our previous work for a few examples.

A well-designed PowerPoint presentation increases your level of professionalism and makes you more authoritative in the eyes of the audience. It is important to engage your audience as much as possible when dealing with apathetic listeners, so telling a great story and using powerful visuals is a great place to start. Take a look at our article on audience engagement for more ideas.

Presentation tips for uninformed audiences

An uninformed audience is one that does not share the same set of knowledge as the presenter. Being able to educate an audience before proposing an idea or solution can lead to a very enjoyable presentation for you and your audience. When it is clear that you have new and valuable information to share, they will be interested and engaged right from the opening lines.

The goal with many PowerPoint presentations is to lay everything out in a way that is easy to understand. This is especially true when presenting to an uninformed audience—you are the expert in the room for as long as you are on the stage. That expertise should be evident in the content and delivery of your presentation so that your audience feels they are learning something new and valuable.

Provide as much information as necessary

It’s important to cover as much information as you can in your presentation, without making too many assumptions about what your audience knows—some people will have no prior knowledge, and others may have only a vague familiarity. If you are preparing to present to an uninformed audience, provide as much information as is necessary to get everyone on the same page before diving into further detail.

Incorporate visuals into your speech

If the length of your presentation feels too long—for example, if you find yourself needing to add more of the backstory to provide more context—using visuals is a good way to move things along. It will save you some talking time and your audience will appreciate the break from listening or reading for extended periods of time.

By including everything that your audience will need to know in your presentation, you should have no problem showing how knowledgeable you are. It’s a good way to showcase your expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader to the audience before diving into the actionable parts of the presentation.

Use anecdotes for additional context

Don’t hesitate to talk about your personal experience. Anecdotes will help clarify how the information can be applied in a real-life context.

After your audience is informed, you’ll be able to tell them the reason you are there and why what you are pitching is so important. Make sure they have all of the information they need to take the next steps with you.

Presentation tips for hostile audiences

A hostile audience is one that actively resists your efforts to get them on your side. They may argue or interrupt, and the tension between you and them can easily escalate if it is not managed effectively.

There will be many different reasons behind why an audience is contentious, but audiences often become hostile when a presenter ignores one or more of the following considerations:

  • The audience wants to be listened to, not lectured.
  • The audience wants something new and different.
  • The audience wants to be respected.
  • The audience feels like this is not a valuable use of their time.

Many presenters find themselves getting overwhelmed when dealing with a hostile audience because they neglect one or more of these key considerations. There are a few things you can do to win over a hostile audience.

Respect your audience

Taking into account the traits mentioned above, be sure to:

  • Listen to your audience, their opinions, and their concerns.
  • Give the audience some new information that directly relates to them.
  • Respect your audience, their work, and their viewpoint.
  • Respect your audience’s time and spend it wisely.

Provide real-life context for your presentation

Managing a hostile audience often means being patient and proactive. Provide as much context as possible so that your audience can see how your presentation can be applied to real-life situations. An audience’s hostility can often stem from the fact that they are not seeing how your presentation benefits or makes a difference in their work or personal lives. The more you understand your audience, the better you will be at tailoring your presentation to their needs.

Be objective and respectful

Keep your presentation as objective as possible to leave out any ambiguity. Use clear statistics and data to show that you have done your research. Numbers don’t lie!

When conflicts arise, face them head on and respectfully acknowledge your audience’s concerns. Be sure to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. Be confident in your own point of view but be willing to compromise and listen to what areas your audience disagrees with.

Finally, don’t exaggerate or undersell a point. No audience wants to feel like they are being misled. Be objective and provide research and evidence to support the points you want to make.

An important part of presenting to a hostile audience is to have them respect you. It is a fine balance between showing the audience how knowledgeable you are as a professional and respecting the knowledge that they already have. You never want to make your audience feel as though you are speaking down to them. Most people will appreciate a presenter who simply delivers a high-quality presentation that offers valuable food for thought.

How to identify what type of audience you have

Now that you know the four different types of audiences, you will be able to quickly pick up on who your audience is in the first few minutes of your presentation.

As a presenter, you will always hope for an uninformed or friendly audience, but it is important to prepare for an apathetic or hostile one.

Before you begin your presentation, do some research on your audience to learn all you can about them.

6 questions to learn more about your audience

By asking yourself a few questions and going over them with a few other people, you will get a better idea of what your audience will be like and how you can prepare your presentation. This will increase your chances of winning them over when the time comes.

How do they like to receive information?

  • Would they like a printed document to follow along with?
  • What room setup might work best—boardroom, classroom, U-shaped, etc.?
  • Is your presentation accessible and available in different formats? (Tip: Read our ultimate guide to accessible presentation design to learn about this.)

What will be the biggest obstacle?

  • What points may be controversial? Is there anything you can do to minimize tension between you and your audience?
  • How can you effectively get your message across? What are your key points to discuss?

How does your audience fit into your plan?

  • What do you want from your audience and how can you get it?
  • What is the ideal outcome from the presentation?
  • What information do you want your audience to take away from your presentation?

What problems does your audience have that you can solve?

  • How does your presentation affect your audience?
  • Outline the process, the outcome, and where you fit in to the solution.

How can you show your audience you understand?

  • Every company has a fear or a problem—how can you show them you understand, and that you empathize with them?
  • Beyond stating that you understand, what actionable steps can you take to ensure your empathy is received and makes a tangible difference to your audience?

What type of people are they?

  • What does an average day look like for your audience?
  • What role do they have in their organization? Are they data analysts providing information, or are they key decision makers?

Define a clear call to action

The success of a presentation largely depends on a strong call to action (CTA) at the end.

You can deliver an excellent presentation, but if you don’t leave your audience with an actionable next step, it might not have the outcome you want.

A great CTA should come right before the end of a presentation—it’s what you want your audience to do or think about once the presentation has ended. Even a friendly audience needs to know how you need them to proceed when they walk out of your presentation.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when crafting your CTA.

Be clear and direct

Don’t leave your audience trying to guess what it is you want them to do. Make it clear what the next steps are and how they can be achieved.

Encourage your audience to act quickly

Your audience should be prompted to take action immediately after your presentation, or by a certain deadline. Giving them too much time to think it over can cause them to lose interest or simply forget what it was they were asked to do. Even if they don’t fully commit right away, consider asking them to do something that shows interest, such as signing up for a newsletter.

Lower any barriers to action

Be aware of what might hinder people from taking action—for instance, prices might be too high or there may be too many steps to get to the final goal. Offer incentives or minimize these barriers so that your audience is more motivated to take action. Consider seminar-specific discounts or some other exclusive value to those who choose to move forward with you—do what you can to show your audience that not only are you valuable to them, but they are also very valuable to you.

Focus on benefits for your audience

While your overall goal may be to accomplish something for yourself or on behalf of your company, you want to make sure your CTA highlights some type of benefit for those who do choose to participate. Make sure they know how your presentation can positively affect what they do or how it improves on what they already have.

Customize your CTA for each role

Once again, we stress the importance of knowing your audience. Perhaps you are presenting to CEOs and presidents of companies who will influence the decisions of those they work with. You might be presenting to a sales team who is concerned with how cost effective your product or service is. Maybe you are presenting to a group of people who are all at different levels within a company. In any case, you want to point out how your pitch can make a difference at every level.

People in leadership roles will be interested in the efficiency of your product. They want to stay a step ahead of competitors and be the first people to take action.

Sales representatives will want to know that they are getting great value for what they pay, so speak to them about how you can impact the pricing, effectiveness, and process efficiency. Highlight how the benefits are equal to or greater than the cost of the product or service you are pitching.


Presenting in front of any audience can be nerve-racking. These tips will help you prepare for the unexpected and feel comfortable in front of any group.

With a friendly audience, you have the ability to relax and let go of some of the pressure that comes with delivering a presentation. Just remember to stay focused on the task at hand and not let your comfort level distract you from delivering a strong presentation.

Apathetic audiences often struggle to find relevance within a presentation. Be sure to find a subject you can connect with them on so that they know you have valuable information to share.

With an uninformed audience, it is important to demonstrate your expertise while still respecting the knowledge your audience already has.

In the case of presenting to a hostile audience, work on being as objective as possible with the information you are sharing. Be understanding of why your audience might be upset, and respect differences of opinion.

The goal is to have your audience leave with the call to action ringing in their heads so that they are motivated to take action. In order to get them there, you will need to take into account the types of individuals they are, the type of audience they are, and how to lead them so they are ready to take action when you finish.

As long as you do some research on who your audience will be, there will be fewer surprises on the day of your presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Working with Stinson: The Presentation Agency

What exactly do presentation agencies do?

We provide all the help you may need to design presentations that achieve your goals. This can include content consulting, presentation slide design, custom icons and illustrations, and presentation handouts—ultimately, our team of PowerPoint designers and consultants develop a comprehensive presentation solution that meets your specific needs.

Why do companies work with presentation agencies?

Consider how much time you (or your team) spend making PowerPoint presentations for meetings. Think about the back and forth over which fonts, colors, icons, and images to use. Is it okay to use bullet points? Did you use the right brand colors? Does the slide look too crowded and busy? Or does it look too plain? How do you create the look and feel that you're picturing? After the design is done, do you have enough time to practice presenting?

As presentation experts, it is our second nature to understand your goals and work with you to create the professional PowerPoint deck that you envisioned. You can learn more about our 3-phase process here.

By leaving the presentation design to an agency like Stinson, you save yourself the time and worry over the look, feel, and progression of your presentation—we make your PowerPoint presentation-ready so that you can focus on the presentation delivery.

Which presentation design service will I need?

As a presentation company, we offer every service you may need to develop your you may need to develop your PowerPoint—however, it's tough to say exactly which services of ours would benefit you the most without having chatted about your company, industry, and presentation uses.

We've generalized the scenarios that we regularly see and help our clients with. If your situation is similar to any of the below, then rest assured that our presentation experts have proven success in developing solutions.

  • You have an upcoming presentation with investors or clients. You feel your slide deck looks outdated or dull, and you don't know how to help it. You're also not sure if the content in your presentation conveys your value. View our case study where our presentation development and content consulting services helped our client achieve their investor funding goals.
  • Your company has regular internal department presentations. Everyone works on their respective slides, which are then combined into one presentation deck. The resulting PowerPoint does not have a cohesive look and somehow, there are five new shades of your corporate colors. We can help you identify your common slide layouts and design easy-to-use custom PowerPoint templates so your team members can create seamless, unified slides.
  • Your company has a great PowerPoint template that strongly reflects your branding, but your team tends to include too much text and irrelevant images on their slides. During the presentation, key messages are lost. We offer presentation training for exactly this—we'll train your team to create better slides more efficiently.

Expectations when working with us

How does partnering with a PowerPoint designer work?

Once you contact us, we'll meet with you and ask for as much context as possible regarding the project: what materials you already have, who is presenting, who is the audience, and so on—this is our Discover phase. From there, we move onto Develop and Design where we start defining the narrative and visual characteristics of your new presentation. For more details, please read our process.

How long do projects take?

Our standard turnaround for presentation development is 2–4 weeks; for custom presentation templates, our typical turnaround is 3–6 weeks. We know this is a wide range, but due to the collaborative nature of our presentation design process (i.e. asking for and incorporating your feedback), our turnaround time also relies on your responsiveness and availability. We do offer a rush service if your timelines are short.

How much does a presentation design cost?

We price on a project-by-project basis, involving a number of key factors outlined in our pricing model. However, we do require a minimum project cost of $1,500.

We often see companies that do not have budget allocations for presentation design and are hesitant to make the initial investment. We understand—at first, it can be difficult to see the value and difference a well-designed, practical presentation can make. For our clients that started in this situation, we worked on a smaller pilot test project; when they saw the positive ROI of the presentation, they were able to secure larger budgets and found more presentations that needed our help.

What are the final files that I will receive?

All of our final PowerPoint (or other presentation software) deliverables are shared with you in its native, editable file format. We are also able to provide a PDF or video version of your presentation if you would like.

Any presentation collateral we design for your project is shared as a ready-to-print PDF, unless if you specify a different preference.

Have you worked with other clients in my industry? Can you share related samples?

Our list of clients spans a wide range of industries, some of which we hadn't known of prior to the client's project. Since our approach involves familiarizing ourselves with the client's business and industry, we've become a team of jacks-of-all-trades for industry knowledge.

We're able to share blinded, industry-specific samples of presentations that our clients have consented to. Contact us if you're interested!


Aside from PowerPoint, do you work in Google Slides? Keynote? Prezi?

Yes! While we prefer designing PowerPoint presentations due to its robust features that let us create advanced designs, we've created custom presentation designs in Google Slides and Keynote at our clients' request.

We generally do not design presentations in Prezi since it does not support the level of design customization that we need for our clients. Instead, we use PowerPoint to create the same animations and layouts that are characteristic of Prezi presentations—you can view examples in our portfolio.

Will we run into issues if we use Mac and/or Windows PC?

There are some differences in functionality between PowerPoint for Mac and PowerPoint for Windows—but these are not for your concern! We use both Mac and Windows computers at Stinson, so we're able to ensure cross-device compatibility with every PowerPoint presentation we design. During our initial call with you, we'll ask you for these tech specs so that we know to bear them in mind when working on your project.

Does it matter which version of PowerPoint we use?

Yes; the latest versions of PowerPoint have new functions and features that earlier versions of PowerPoint cannot load. We'll take note of your tech setup to ensure that our presentations for you run as intended.

Designing with branding

How are you able to design with our company's brand?

If you have any brand guidelines, we ask you to provide them early on in the process so that we can familiarize ourselves not only with your logos, colors, and fonts, but the overarching brand tone. Our collaborative process includes rounds of revision for you to provide your feedback on the presentation design.

Are you able to design within our very strict corporate brand guidelines?

Absolutely! Many of our clients are companies with well-established brand identities. We do our due diligence to maintain the integrity of their branding when designing their presentations and collateral.

Strict brand guidelines do not necessarily restrict the possibility of creating a sophisticated PowerPoint; our presentation designers thoughtfully use photos, animations, and other visuals to build the story.

We don't have concrete branding yet or we're in the process of updating our brand. Can you work without defined brand elements?

Yes! When we work with clients who are still ironing out the details of their branding, we ask them to provide us any materials they have already and to share their design inspirations. From there, we lay out moodboards of different tones and styles to see which resonates the most with what our client has in mind.


We have highly sensitive information. Will my data remain confidential?

Absolutely—we respect the proprietary nature of businesses, and enforce a strict confidentiality policy company-wide. From the first point of contact with you, we assume a non-disclosure agreement (NDA); we are happy to sign your company's NDA as well.

Where do you store my files and data?

All of our files are stored securely in an industry-leading content server. The server exceeds regulatory standards and encrypts each file using AES 256-bit encryption in diverse locations.

Additionally, the Stinson team works completely in-house, so your files will not cross borders.

How secure is my data?

We take data security seriously. We enforce numerous internal policies and procedures to ensure that Stinson continues to meet compliance and security standards for data protection, including multi-factor authentication for all company accounts and access restrictions.

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