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Finding Out as Much as You Can about Your Audience

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 28 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Ages audience audience Member

You knew you were expected to be a public speaker… but did you realize you also had to be part investigator?

Don't worry - you don't have to channel the thoughts and abilities of Sherlock Holmes in order to do a great job. But you do have to poke about a bit to find out essential information about your audience members.

It's an element of speaking that many speech makers overlook - getting to know their listeners.

In the hustle and bustle to create the "perfect" presentation, speakers sometimes neglect to discover as much as they can about the people who will be in front of them. Then, when they get to the podium or stage, the shock sets in that they haven't prepared in the right way.

You see, if you have no clue to whom you're going to be talking, you risk investing tons of time in a speech that isn't going to be effective (or perhaps even well-received.)

However, you, dear reader, are fortunate because you'll never make that mistake! Instead, you'll be able to follow these few guidelines/tips to ensure that you get to know every audience almost intimately before you ever meet face-to-face!

Get to Know Your Audience

If you're told to give a presentation by a third party, ask him or her who the audience will be.

This sounds sensible, but many speech makers don't consider it. And that can be to their own detriment.

If you're being asked (or hired) to give a talk to a crowd, ask the requester to tell you as much as he or she can about your listeners. Everything from audience members' ages, gender, expectations, and affiliations can be extremely valuable. That way, you can tailor your words to fit their ears.

Do Online Research About Your Audience

Giving a speech for a bunch of 14-16 year old boys at a community centre? Then get online and find out everything you can about those teens.

Don't assume that kids that age are the same as you were (or as your kids are) or will respond to whatever material you develop. Young people's interests have changed dramatically over the past decade, and if you're not "up" on popular culture, they'll tune you out immediately.

Put Yourself in the Role of the Audience.

Imagine that you're an audience member hearing your speech. What would you want to know? What would be most important to you? What would you "tune out"? What would engage you? This type of role-playing can give you incredible insights into your listeners.

For instance, if you're giving a talk about last quarter's marketing results to a group of shareholders, what will they want to hear? Obviously, they will be interested in financials, but they might also want to know what you're going to do next or how the quarter compared to the rest of the year's quarters. What they probably don't want to hear, though, is an in-depth report on how you and the rest of the marketing team came up with your campaigns. (Though you can certainly have that information in the back of your mind in case questions are asked.)

By putting yourself in others' shoes, you'll be able to innately know what to add and what to delete from your speech.

Ask an Audience Member what He/She Wants to Know

Finally, if you have the opportunity to speak with someone who will be in the audience, there's nothing wrong with "interviewing" him or her.

Find out exactly why he or she is coming to the presentation.. (Is he/she expected to do so by someone else? Is he/she paying? Does he/she even understand the topic?) Then, you can tweak your wording to fit those expectations.

By putting on your "detective" hat, you can maximize the chances of receiving positive feedback from everyone who heard your speech.

The game… or… er… the speech… is afoot!

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