Consider the audience - FIRST

"It's the economy stupid" was a successful James Carville mantra in the Bill Clinton 1992 campaign. I have stolen a bit of his thunder with this blog to make a point: keep the message targeted to your audience.


  • Corporate annual meeting
  • Association gathering
  • Dinner or awards event
  • Client celebration
  • Press event
  • Political rally

Here are examples of clients' decisions without consideration of the audience, but distracted by leadership needs.


Today I was asked for recommendations on a guest speaker for a new client. They were unprepared when I asked about the audience. What would they expect? Would a guest speaker be the best solution for this time slot? “Well, it is always a guest speaker…”

Of course it is. But back to my question. What do you want the audience to take away from this time block in the three day meeting? If you don’t start there, you are wasting your time.

This bi-annual meeting has been routinely “treated” to a guest speaker. One chosen by the planners for their objective not the audience needs.

"Because we always do it that way." Perhaps the audience is different. They are younger, better informed, tired from traveling or hung over from too much lunch or last night's cocktail party.


Another client asked me this week about doing his keynote wearing a historical costume – since the event is in Colonial Williamsburg.

What? The presentation was to deliver a new marketing message. It has nothing to do with an historical figure. The destination was selected due to travel time for a regional meeting.

His reason for a costume is due to the location of the meeting? Not for advancing the message. Just another example of how the audience is not first in mind for planning.

As a result the amateur presenter is totally wrapped up in the preparation of the costume rather than the message.

Don’t let this happen to you.


An event of 8,000 managers meeting in Nashville warranted big name entertainment. The client had the one million dollar budget for any talent. The president chose Elton John. Why a Nashville event would have an English pop star? Reason was simple, the company president wanted to meet Elton.

A crossover top 10 country music act living in Nashville would have been a more appropriate audience choice at half the cost.

The same issue came up years ago when the VP of Marketing for a national business held a meeting for the top 100 sales people. Easy choice: Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and a 16 piece orchestra. The fact she was just beginning her singing career, was expensive and unproven did not dissuade the VP. He wanted to meet her. Lost on him was, at this meeting, the sales force would get a cut in commission and moved from full size company cars to economy cars due to cut backs on expenses.

Through the whole evening the audience wondered why they had to suffer this obviously expensive torture.

The next cut back was the VP of Marketing. Oh, Lynda Carter's singing career was short lived.

Another client insisted on a comedian for their 5 city cocktail party road show. The client described their typical audience of store owners 55+ years old with dozens of years in the trade. Though I stressed the risk of a comedian I insist the client must audition comedians with a similar audience before signing a contract. We viewed the first choice in a similar audience to big laughs and appreciation.

Problem. Our client's audience was all under 40 store managers who just didn't get the comedian's material. Better yet, the comedian admonished the audience for not paying attention.

After failing in two cities, the client had to pay off the expensive comedian contract and hire a small band doing current covers.


Consider the message venue selection makes on an audience. If you are going to celebrate, choose a nice place with recreation allowing time in the schedule for golf, tennis, beach or casino.  Don't make the mistake of selecting a world class resort and keep your audience in meetings from sun up to sun down.

If the message is bad news (sales are down, there will be financial cut backs, we have new owners) then hold the meeting in an appropriate venue. An airport or chain hotel location is appropriate with little or no outside temptation.


It's the audience stupid. Email with your experiences of missing the target audience: rfranklin at