Knowing Your Audience


“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” ― Alfred Hitchcock

Yikes! That’s a scary thought for Executive Directors and board members, as they choose a guest speaker for their upcoming banquet. While many of us grew up watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and his weekly series, little did we know he may have been trying to make us suffer.

I know there are many people who are fearful of birds to this day.

Did his movie The Birds have a hand in that long-term suffering? It certainly could cause suffering while watching.

Hitchcock was a master at taking ordinary things and making them scary—black birds, train rides, or apartment windows. All were altered to be unordinary and menacing by his directing.

When it comes to your fund-raising banquet or gala, you don’t want your audience to suffer, but there are circumstances that can cause them to suffer through a poorly chosen speaker. With the number of events that Dan and I have done together or individually, we’ve seen and heard mishaps first hand and we “get it.”

When it comes to things that can derail an event, we’ve seen it—timeliness, stage healing sessions, a spotlighted testimony that goes longer than expected, a feeling of—just make it stop, reading of the speech, and “it’s time to honor everyone for their role.” Does it take away from getting support? It depends. Let’s consider a few commonsense approaches to knowing your audience.

I don’t want to speak for other presenters, so I’m going to speak about us, and you can apply these commonsense approaches to your guest speaker. I’ve listed them below for your ease of use.

  • Relevant information is important. Sounds logical enough, right? To get there, we have found it best to take seriously the feedback we get from guests as they leave and combine those remarks with the responses of the hosting team. When an event is over, we position ourselves at the exit door, so we can thank guests for coming and supporting the organization we believe in. Guests say many things, “I’ve never shared this with anyone,” “great job,” “best speakers ever,” or “you two had us laugh and cry.” Who doesn’t love to hear such encouraging words? The hosting center team can be a bit more realistic. They know their community at large and can offer great suggestions. We consider those and make changes.

Ask the speaker: How recently have you changed your speech to remain relevant to our cause? Share an example.

  • Preparation is important when it comes to knowing the audience. We have implemented a new approach to be included in 2-3 banquet planning calls with the entire hosting PMC banquet team. Why do that? Can’t the Executive Director cover what’s needed? On one hand, yes as she has her finger on the pulse of the organization. However, on the other hand, if anyone really wants to know the culture of an organization, it takes multiple individuals who serve in key roles to truly share the full picture. We want to be a part of the team, know the organization, and fully understand what it does or even how it’s unique in this industry.

Ask the speaker: How do you prepare for our event? What steps do you take to get to know us before representing us to our community?

  • Familiarity plays a part in how the topic will be received. Is the event built around getting guests who are unfamiliar with the host organization to become aware and involved, or is the event built around established partners who want an update along with a “what’s next?” presentation? In most settings where we speak, it’s a combination. Reaching the established and building the new is what every PMC hopes for. As the guest speaker team, we feel it is important to connect the audience to what has been in place, what’s current, and what’s on the horizon.

Ask the speaker: How does the focus of their speech tie to the PMC setting. If they don’t connect the two, who does?

These are a few common-sense approaches to consider when choosing your banquet speaker. We’ve spoken at many fund-raising banquets tied to the medical conversion process or start up, and we still do. Truth is, many of you have matured into a different clinic than you were 10-15 years ago. You may be way past the conversion and have matured into a modern day medical clinic.

Who has reached out to your donors recently with what the modern PMC medical services really look like?

Who has the experience having spent time in the same trenches you do?

Do you have an interest in bringing a message of sound medical practices to your guests?

Dan and I do just that, but we’ve learned to adapt and know when we need to switch our approach.

Call our office at 702-925-8737 to reach us and set up an Event Match Interview (EMI). Find out more about our current banquet topic. If you had us in the past, it may be just the ticket you need to reach donors with an updated version of what a PMC does in this day and time.

As you serve women, and men in some cases, in the community during the decision-making stage of pregnancy, many of your donors are unaware of just how medical you are. We’d love to join you as you serve your donor community.


Connie Ambrecht
Sparrow Solutions Group
Founder & CEO

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