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  • Kathy O'Brien

Dancing With Your Audience



Mark was brimming with confidence. In tailored power suit and snazzy haircut, well-rehearsed presentation deck in hand, he was ready to ace it…..


…. except, he didn’t expect an audience so old and grim, in dishevelled office wear. Mark quickly discovered they were concerned with specific compliance to their head office requirements. They had also recently restructured, cutting 25% of staff, and made disparaging remarks about ‘smartly-dressed consultants’.


How could poor Mark have missed the target so badly?


Mark missed a step in the dance.


Consider all communication a ‘dance’ between partners. You have to know what kind of dance your audience does – its techniques and rules – so you can dance with them well and lead them where you want them to go.


How do you dance well? You create a proper picture of your customer, somewhat akin to creating a ‘customer avatar’ in marketing parlance. You want this picture to be as detailed and vivid as possible because it gives you more insight, and with more insight, you can choose the best way to engage them.


The key to this dance is understanding how the other party thinks. Basically, put yourself in a position to see the world from their perspective. Our sharply dressed but hapless consultant Mark could have prepared for his dance with his customers in the following ways:

  • Viewed their website to get a sense of the corporate style, history, focus areas, leadership

  • Researched media coverage to learn their latest news and tune into the phrases they use

  • Checked individual LinkedIn profiles for their background, interests and more

  • Taken note of their email style: formal or conversational? Did they share background or just give the facts?

  • Learned about their culture from people who’d worked with the company. Even the office location in an old industrial park would give clues.


Mark could then construct the ‘dance steps’. He could choose the best opportunities to connect with them meaningfully – addressing a key pain point or sharing a similar experience. He could choose a presentation style that appeals more to this group: lose the power suit, talk respectfully about following procedures and acknowledge the recent cutbacks.


When you dance well, you intentionally choose words and actions that make your ‘dance partner’ comfortable with you. This increases the chances of guiding your customer toward mutually beneficial goals.


Invest in learning the dance, and you will waltz to success.


Or… to paraphrase David Bowie with just a touch of liberty,


“Put on their Red Shoes, and dance with their blues.”

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