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Giving a speech in front of an audience can be nerve-wracking. All eyes are on you, and your audience is expecting to hear something engaging and interesting from your speech. Whether you are an experienced orator or a public-speaking novice, it’s important to research your audience before you give your speech. By catering to your audience, you can ensure your speech is successful and meets the goals you’re looking to achieve.
Understand the Benefits of Audience Analysis
The role of the audience in communication is highly important. After all, if your audience isn’t interested in what you’re saying or doesn’t understand the terminology you use, then your speech may fall flat. In order to ensure your audience pays attention, it’s critical to research to whom you're speaking and understand their preferences and motivations.
Audience analysis can help you to:
- Meet the specific needs of your audience group
- Give a memorable and impactful speech
- Achieve your business objectives
- Create lasting and meaningful relationships with audience members
- Build a business network or helpful peers
When you take the time to research to whom you’re speaking, you are able to write a speech that is tailored to what your audience needs to know and to topics about which they care. This enables you to get your message across more accurately. For example, a speech to your employees will be written differently than a speech to customers. It’s important to review background and context before writing your speech.
Plan in Advance
Conduct your audience research early so you have plenty of time to prepare your speech based on their interests. Ask the host of the event for details on who will be attending. You can also send out a short survey to people who will be attending to gather critical data. Using published market research can also help you to understand those to whom you will be speaking.
Review Their Demographics
Start your audience analysis by understanding the demographics of the group to whom you’re speaking. This includes:
- Age range
- Sexual orientation
- Social status
These characteristics can greatly affect the way people understand and react to your message. For example, if you’re giving a speech to your senior employees who are in executive-level positions with good salaries, their interests will differ from your junior-level employees who are in entry-level positions and may be paying off hefty student loans.
Keep in mind that demographics are not the only factor your should consider. For example, if the majority of your audience members are age 16 to 20, you may assume that they are interested in social media and music. This doesn’t mean that your entire speech needs to be focused around those things. Knowing your audience demographics can help you frame your speech, but you should keep in mind that your audience may be interested in other things as well.
Delve Into Their Behavior
Understanding your audience’s demographic characteristics can help you to discern their behavioral qualities. This includes:
- Priorities: What do they hold important above all else? What are they more likely to purchase?
- Goals: What do they hope to achieve in the short term and long term?
- Concerns: What kinds of challenges do they face in their day-to-day lives with which you can help?
- Fears: What keeps them up at night? About what do they worry?
By delving into your audience’s behavior, you can make educated guesses about what they value and the things about which they care. For example, if your audience is concerned about the environment and is interested in the factors that affect climate change, they may want to know more about your company’s efforts to use sustainable materials in your manufacturing process.
Tailoring your speech based on your audience’s interests can help you create content that resonates deeply with your audience, making your speech more impactful. If you’re talking to a group of prospects who prioritize health and fitness, for example, take care to discuss how your product can make their workouts easier.
Create an Audience Persona
Once you have gathered your audience analysis research, create an audience persona. This is a character who is representative of the majority of your audience. Include their demographic and behavioral qualities and make educated guesses about any information you may be missing.
For example, if you know that they are young parents, you can assume that they may be interested in financial planning for their future or looking for low-budget entertainment options they can do with little kids.
Having all of this information summarized succinctly in one place makes it easy to understand at a glance. Keep your audience persona handy when you are working on your speech so you can reference it when you need more details about the things in which your audience is interested. The audience persona can also be a valuable resource for future speeches you make to this audience.
Establish the Objective of Your Speech
Keeping your audience analysis in mind, identify the main goal of your speech.
- Inform: Telling employees about a new company policy or updating them on quarterly results.
- Entertain: Engaging guests at an industry dinner.
- Persuade: Convincing prospects and customers to make a purchase.
- Inspire: Motivating investors to support your company.
Understanding your key objective based on your audience will help you to craft a speech that is highly targeted, ensuring you keep your audience’s attention throughout.
Outline What Your Audience Knows and Doesn’t Know
When working on your speech, it’s critical to know your audience’s level of experience with the topic on which you’re focusing. Ask yourself:
- How much does your audience already know, and what information are they missing?
- Are they aware of what information they don’t know?
- What is their level of familiarity with the subject matter?
- Do they understand industry jargon?
If the audience of a speech doesn’t understand the words you’re using, for example, you will not be able to get your message across. On the other hand, if the audience isn’t aware that they are missing any information, then you have to provide them with some context before you begin your speech. Alternatively, if they are already experts in the field about which you’re talking, then covering the basics may bore them and create a loss of credibility for you.
Imagine you’re presenting to a group of investors who know nothing about the kind of technology your company creates. In this speech, it would be beneficial to discuss the revolutionary qualities of your technology and even show them a short demo. However, if those investors are already familiar with your industry, then you can skip to talking about the financial benefits and show a more advanced demo.
Keep the Venue in Mind
Audience analysis in public speaking also includes reviewing the characteristics of the venue to ensure it suits your guests. Consider:
- Room temperature
For example, if your speech is for elderly people who may have mobility issues, a large arena with many stairs will not be ideal for your audience. Whenever possible, adjust your venue to match the needs of your guests so they feel comfortable in the setting.
Keep in mind that the time and day of your speech also need to fit with your audience's schedules. A speech for parents of young children that is late in the evening may result in a low turnout if the parents need to get a babysitter in order to come to your event. A speech to your employees held on a weekend may be an inconvenience and may affect their work-life balance. Consider how easy it is for your guests to be there and adjust accordingly.
- Toastmasters International: Resource Library - Audience
- Lumen: The Importance of Audience Analysis
- University of Pittsburgh Department of Communication: Audience Analysis
- InfoGraphic Design Team: Identifying Your Target Audience In 10 Simple Yet Effective Ways
- Jaffe: Don’t Know Your Audience? Your PR and Marketing May Fall Flat
Anam Ahmed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. She writes on everything from business to parenting, travel to technology. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.
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