The Importance of Understanding Your Audience

Outstanding Speeches Comes From Conducting Thorough and Complete Research of Your Topic.

It may have taken many long days and nights to perfect your debate speech and strategy; but nothing worse is to have your work fall on deaf ears. If you desire an audience who can appreciate your thoughts and ideas; it is best to know what your audience favours.

An audience is a group of people who come together to listen to the speaker. The audience may be face to face with the speaker or they may be connected by communication technology such as computers or other media. The audience may be small or it may be a large public audience. A key characteristic of the audience in public speaking situations is the unequal distribution of speaking time. What does this mean? The speaker talks much more and the audience listens, often without asking questions or responding with any feedback. In some situations the audience may ask questions or respond overtly by clapping or making comments.

Audience-Centered Approach to Speaking

Since there is usually limited communication between the speaker and the audience, there is limited opportunity to go back to explain your meaning. In order to prepare, it is important to know about the audience and adapt the message to the audience. You want to prepare your speech with a focus on the audience, not just you, the speaker, or your message. We call this approach audience-centered.

In public speaking, you are speaking for and to your audience; thus, understanding the audience is a major part of the speech making process. In audience-centered speaking, getting to know your target audience is one of the most important tasks that you face. You want to learn about the major demographics of the audience such as age, gender, sexual orientation, education, religion, what culture, ethnic group or race as well as to what groups the audience members belong. Additionally, learning about the values, attitudes and beliefs of the members of your audience will allow you to anticipate and plan your message.

Finding Common Ground by Taking Perspective

You want to analyze your audience prior to your speech so you can create a link between you, the speaker and the audience during the speech. You want to be able to step inside the minds of the audience to understand the world from their perspective. Through this process you can find common ground with the audience, which allows you to align your message with what the audience already knows or believes.

Gathering and Interpreting Information

Audience analysis involves gathering and interpreting information about the recipients of oral, written or visual communication. There are very simple methods for conducting an audience analysis such as interviewing a small group about itsknowledge or attitudes, or using more involved methods of analyzing demographic studies of relevant segments of the population. You may also find it useful to look at sociological studies of different age groups or cultural groups for knowledge. You might also use a questionnaire or rating scale to collect data about basic demographic information and opinions of your target audience. Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list. But it does help you get a good general understanding of the methods for learning about your audience. After considering all the known factors, a profile of the intended audience can be created, allowing you to speak in a manner that is understood by the intended audience.

Tips for the Speaker – Practical Benefits

Finally, understanding who makes up your target audience will allow you to carefully plan your message and adapt what you say to the level of understanding and background of the listeners. Two practical benefits of conducting an audience analysis are (1) to prevent you from saying the wrong thing such as telling a joke which offends, and (2) to help you speak to your audience in a language which they understand about things of interest to them.