Image showing different target audience members

It's not about you

Having a superstar marketing professional as a daughter has helped me immensely in my journey.

Communication is at the very core of everything that she does and as a professional public speaker, it should be at the very core of everything that you do too! After taking a client brief, the very next thing that my daughter does is to understand who she needs to market to by creating "Customer Personas". These are not broad, high level demographic clusters of "types" of people she needs to reach with a campaign - she brings her target audience to life by specifically naming and describing each persona, digging deep to understand their real "pains" they face today so that she can focus on the "gains" they could get from the product or service she is marketing.

I came up with my own variant of the Customer Persona template that she created, in order to do the very same thing for the keynotes, workshops and masterclasses that I provide and it has been incredibly powerful. I now have a range of "Audience Avatars" that I draw on when creating a new session or planning the narrative for a keynote - not too many, otherwise it defeats the object of the exercise - I consider 3 or 4 key avatars each time I'm planning a session.

In this way, it doesn't matter if I'm talking to an audience of 10 or 100 or 1000 - I always think of Sally, Bob, Bill or Mary sitting in the audience - they are the ones I'm specifically doing this for and in an audience of 10, there might only be one of each - but in an audience of 1000, those 4 avatars will represent the primary audience that I have crafted my message for. They will recognise this for themselves and the message will resonate with them - which represents success in the world of public speaking!

Download the pdf template here before reading any further as you can follow along with the exercise.


  • Make a copy of the pdf file before opening it
  • Apple users with the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat reader will be able to get the full functionality out of the editable template as you will be able to upload a photo or image to represent your persona
  • I apologise to Microsoft and other operating system users in advance - you will be able to use the template, but you will not be able to upload an image - I couldn't get this to work and it's not my priority as it works fine for me - I'm an Apple Mac user .........

Let's check out the editable sections of the template:-

Organisation / Entity - I also use this template for customer product & service development workshops, hence the naming convention - either put your name here or if you are creating avatars for a specific event, put theirs there - it's not that important

Product / Service - I do multiple types of keynotes, workshops and masterclasses - each of which is targeted at a different set of avatars - I use this field to record which of those this particular avatar relates to.

Image Placeholder - (see notes above regarding Mac vs Microsoft users) - I am a very visual person so I need an image to bring this to life. There is a great source of free images you can use to inspire avatar creation found here at ThisPersonDoesNotExist - every time you refresh the page you will be shown another image - and incredibly, NONE of them are actual people! The images are AI generated composites that look exactly like real people (you can find out more about the project here) - I've built up a library of over one hundred of these to use by repeatedly refreshing this page on my mobile phone and then taking screenshots - which I then upload into my Audience Avatar templates (in fact the banner at the top of this page is comprised of a few of those images!). I browse through the images and think to myself - "hey, this looks like someone that works in Marketing, lives in LA and takes her dog to work with her - she's a good person to target for this keynote" and then I go from there by building out the rest of the profile.

Name - is this a Sally or a Sue, a Bob, Tad or Bill? We all have our inbuilt biases and stereotypes - You could use the name of a real person that you know is your exact target - whatever you do, naming the person makes the rest a bit easier

Age, Job Title, Salary and Education - yes, these are traditional demographic classifications, but they help to provide "age and stage" and lifestyle context

Relationship and Dependants - are they single / looking / in a relationship / divorced (due to the pressure of their job or life?), do they have kids, siblings, parents or relatives they are caring for - all of these contribute to the richness of your understanding of the challenges they face

Living and Location - are they still living at home, sharing accomodation, living alone, in a big house, on a boat, in an urban or rural location? Geographic location / country / culture has an influence over their outlook, as does the degree to which they have lived and worked in other countries - take this all into consideration.

Brand affinity - are they a Nike, Apple, Louis Vuitton, Porsche person? What are the brands they covert / identify with / aspire to?

NOW - we start getting into the implications of all of the above:-

Objects, Goals & Needs - what is this person trying to achieve in their job and / or life if you are a motivational speaker? What are they looking for? Do they need information? What kind? What sort of help do they need? Thinking along these lines will help you figure out how you can help them - hy would they be sitting in front of you, listening to what you have to say?

Obstacles, Challenges & Fears - what is standing in the way of them achieving their goals? What do they fear most? How can you help them overcome those obstacles and fears? The more useful you can be to them, the more they will seek out and respect your opinion. Have you faced similar challenges in the past? Can you tell them a story that will resonate with their situation?

Information Sources - where do they currently turn for information? Do they rely on big analyst organisations? Their own peer network? People like you? What information sources do they trust? Referencing some of these in your keynote will increase your credibility in their eyes, allowing you to introduce them to other sources of information that you trust.

Social media - are they a "lurker", an active participant, an influencer or do they completely dismiss social media? Do they use LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, WeChat, Snapchat, YouTube or what? Useful to figure out in terms of continuing the dialog with them long after the event is over.

Personality, Lifestyle & Leisure - where do they spend their free time and what do they do with it? It's no use throwing in anecdotes about your adrenaline filled, RedBull fuelled weekends if they prefer art exhibitions and classical music .......... What language and metaphors will go down well with them? Do they have an outgoing personality type or will they be more introverted? Note that cultural background and mother tongue will have an influence on the way that they perceive humour and certain cultural references may not go down at all well with them - make sure you always tailor your delivery specifically to your intended audience.

Decisions and Influence - while this is more relevant when used for product & service development, it's useful for me to consider if there may be people in the audience that could potentially engage me for an event of their own. If I'm speaking to a group of university students then it's unlikely that any of them will be able to pay for me to come to an event of theirs anytime in the near future. However, in that same group, I might have faculty members that would absolutely consider having me at their future events - so if one of my avatars is "Richard, Dean of the Faculty", then part of my message will be aimed specifically at building Richard's trust, while the main focus will be giving the students something of value to take away from the session (this specific example is based on actual past experience and success ........).

Armed with 3 or 4 avatars, I would now proceed with the next steps in terms of content creation.

(go back to the Speaker Resources page here)