Know your audience -- and plan a few work-arounds


As a SAS consultant, trainer and regular presenter at local user groups, I (think I'm) fairly comfortable presenting to SAS users, managers, stakeholders and others of varying numbers. Following on from Tricia Aanderud's Presentation Horror Storiesd I'm reminded why this is one of my favorite tips: Know your audience.

At the SAS Australia / New Zealand Forum 3 years ago, I was delivering a presentation on the various support options available to SAS users:,, (a favourite of mine), SAS-L mailing list (hello, Art!), SAS blogs, user blogs, etc.

I had revised, revised, revised, rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed... felt good.

All was ready.. about to start.. took a deep breath.. looked up at the audience just as the lights went down... and... Hang on?!? Is that Chris Hemedinger up the back?!? Mr "Enterprise Guide"?!? Why is he sitting in on my presentation?!?!?

(Now, as everyone who has met him knows, Chris is a really nice guy and we've met and chatted several times since.)

So after a couple of seconds of being stunned, I quickly recovered from the surprise as best I could, delivered the presentation, but never quite had the confidence I had beforehand (in fact, I could feel the sweat on the back of my neck for the duration), not through any fault of Chris' - in hindsight, I was extremely flattered that he chose to attend my presentation - but because I hadn't prepared properly; I was confident I knew the "demographic" of SAS user likely to attend my presentation, and I wasn't prepared that it turned out otherwise.

So: Be prepared for it not to turn out how you prepared. (yes, the Chinese restaurant sugar packet..)

One useful technique I use and I strongly recommend: Have some "contingency" bullet points on the back page of your notes - all those 1% chances of things that probably won't happen (but might!) and with each one a possible solution or workaround:

  • audience possibilities
  • a difficult audience member (the one who tries to hog all the questions)
  • fonts don't work
  • animations don't work
  • the microphone doesn't work and you have to project your voice. (Lots of pauses and water sips, here..)
  • possible flaws in your assumptions you hadn't considered
  • etc.

Having these written down is key - even the process of writing them down means you are more prepared should they eventuate.

So now I'm preparing my 1% list for my presentation about SAS Certification on the Tuesday morning of SAS Global Forum 2013 in San Francisco.

[And Chris, if you are available, I'd be more than happy to see you sitting in the back of the audience..]


About Author

Andrew Howell

SAS Consultant and Trainer

Andrew Howell is a SAS consultant and trainer based in Melbourne, Australia. His customers have included several of Australia's major banks and retail organisations. He is a committee member of his local SAS User Group (SMUG) and a strong advocate of the SAS Certification process, being certified as an Advanced Programmer, BI Content Developer, Data Integration Developer and Platform Administrator for SAS 9.


  1. Chris Hemedinger
    Chris Hemedinger on

    Andrew, you did a great job with your presentation at SAS Forum ANZ. And you're covering important topics! It's great for the SAS user community to hear from "one of its own" on the value of SAS community resources and certification. Looking forward to seeing you in San Fran!

  2. Barbara Ross on

    This describes my first time presenting at a User's Group to a T! I was networking with a lot of SAS gurus while I was there and to show their support, several of them came to see my presentation. I freaked out! These guys wrote the book on SAS and I was presenting to them? Totally threw me off my game. Now I can handle it, but for a first timer it was a nightmare!

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