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Know your Audience

There will always be diversity among a group of individuals but a typical audience has several characteristics that distinguish it from other audiences. Consider Know Audiencethe following variables when tailoring a speech to the interests of an audience:

Age Range
When a speaker knows what kinds of events the audience has experienced, he or she is able to use statements that are meaningful to the audience. These statements help the speaker to establish why his or her ideas are relevant and of interest to the audience.

Male/female ratio
Depending on the organization or situation, an audience may be primarily or exclusively composed of one sex. If this is the case, select the language, examples, and line of reasoning accordingly. Effectively delivering a message means gearing the speech to the specific needs and interests of an audience.

Occupational and economic status
A speaker can assume that an audience comprised of persons sharing a specific occupation has a certain level of specialized knowledge. Using professional jargon with such an audience would be appropriate. Using jargon or referring to specialized knowledge that is unfamiliar to the audience can be confusing and could be perceived as arrogant.
Economic levels also help to define an audience. A speech topic that appeals to an affluent audience would be less likely to appeal to an audience of middle-class manual laborers.
Whatever the occupation or economic status of the audience, the speaker’s goal is to ensure his or her message is perceived as significant to the audience’s lives and experience.

Educational Background
The educational status of an audience can make a significant difference in a speaker’s approach, wording, and focus. Avoid being perceived as patronizing by keeping the speech level just a bit higher than that of listeners but be cautious of using language that exceeds that audience’s understanding.

Political orientation
Some groups pride themselves on being open-minded, but others take firm positions. Be aware of an audience’s general attitude when deciding whether the speech focuses on a topic or merely refers to it briefly.

Leisure activities
Awareness of an audience’s extracurricular hobbies and activities helps speakers further understand the audience’s interests and needs.

Keep the Audience’s Attention
Visit the venue in advance or talk to the event host to gather information about:

  • Room acoustics
  • Seating
  • Lighting
  • Temperature Control
  • Outside noise
  • Other possible distractions

When selecting the best way to hold your audience’s attention, also consider:

    • Time of day
    • Concurrent events/activities
    • Practicality of breaks for lengthy presentations

What does the audience want to know?
Discover what it is that the audience wants to know. Figure out which approaches have worked before and which have not by:

      • Asking the event host what the audience already knows
      • Scanning any publications specific to the audience
      • Contacting local officers
      • Consulting references on the Internet and in periodicals
      • Talking with someone who has either spoken to the group or is an actual member

Speech Objectives
A speaker must recognize what the audience’s goals are and fashion a presentation that meets those objectives. The most common speech objectives are to:

      • Inform
      • Inspire
      • Persuade
      • Entertain

A speaker does not need to adjust their own opinions or talk only about what the audience already agrees with in order to effectively send a message. But the more a speaker knows about the people in the audience – backgrounds, interests, preferences – the easier it will be to establish the best way to deliver a specific message to a particular group.