This one may seem obvious, but when you’re speaking to anyone, whether it’s one person, a staff meeting, or a speech to a large group, you need to know your audience. Never assume that who you’re speaking with is “just like everyone else.” This means you should know something about them, and you should know why you’re speaking with them (e.g., is this a sales call, a pitch for a new program, just general edification?).
I experienced a perfect example of this recently. I was helping a client choose a new website platform and agency to support them in their website redesign. During the presentation, the web agency talked at length about how important it is to provide mobile-friendly web pages because that’s how everyone views web pages these days. (After all, the research supports this!) But in this case, this association’s members are “in the field” without any computers all day, and not on mobile devices at all. They know that 80% of their page views are from the desktop, NOT mobile. The association’s website analytics show this.
The agency had defaulted to “the typical association” rather than first asking if the association knew their own analytics. The sales people assumed this association was just like the rest. Needless to say, they didn’t get the gig.
So before you open your mouth, or assume things that you haven’t confirmed, make sure you know something about the people you’re talking to.