Audience Analysis

Teaching in IESE

The purpose of giving a speech is to give the audience something valuable to them.

If I open most of the books on communicating well that I have on my bookshelf, they will tell me that step one is to know my audience.  How do we achieve this?

How to do Audience Analysis

First, you must know who the audience are and what they need:

What does it take to know my audience?

  • Demographics“Who am I speaking to?”  What is the age and gender of your audience? Education level? What does your audience value? What are their interests? Are you addressing a specific group of people?  Can you be more specific about the group you’ve selected? For example, rather than all business people, should you focus on entrepreneurs? Rather than all entrepreneurs, should you focus on internet entrepreneurs?
  • Context“What do they care about?”  What does your audience know about the topic? How much background will they need in order to understand your topic? Do you need to explain jargon or define terms? Does your audience have a bias about the topic that you will need to address? For example, are you presenting ? If so, keep in mind the audience’s probable biases. Could your audience have any other assumptions about the topic?

Advanced Audience Analysis

  • Identify the group within the group – Who really takes the decisions here?  There is always an “interpretive community” – a smaller group that the rest look to as opinion setters, as decision makers. If they move to action, the rest of the audience will move to action.
  • Understand their Discourse Conventions – Discourse Conventions are shorthand language what is assumed by the audience as a group? In my MBA classes, I can say “we conduct an ABP process” and the group of MBAs knows exactly what I mean, and they know that I am part of their inner group.  Use of this “insider” language creates a stronger connection, but at risk of alienating any “outsiders” present.

How to Prepare your Communication

Adult conversation is about leaving behind what I want to say, and beginning to communicate what they need to hear. This is a challenge. This involves good control of your emotional state. When I complain, I want to speak about how angry I am, how let down I feel. What the audience needs to hear is what they can do, what specifically happened, what we can learn.

  1. “How does my material relate to a challenge, opportunity or need in their lives?”  (W.I.I.F.M.)
  2. “When I am finished speaking, my audience will ___[insert ACTION]__”? (The Point X)
  3. “What do I want them to know, believe, and feel in order to take action #2?”
  4. “What do they already know, believe and feel about the subject?”

Adapting your Speech

  • Develop a way to bond with the audience from the very beginning. “10 years ago I was sat where you are sat today” “I am not a Toastmaster, but I have many friends who are Toastmasters and they told me that the 3 most important things for a Toastmaster audience are…”
  • Target a particular audience group Determine the specific group in the audience will most benefit from your message and speak directly to them.
  • Talk to your audience, not at them. Although not everyone can be specifically targeted, if the speech is presented with the audience in mind, they will feel a more personal connection and be more likely to remember the presentation.
  • Change your vocabulary. If your audience has little knowledge of your topic, define basic terms for them to understand. If your audience is well versed in the topic, feel free to go in depth with the issue and skip the definitions. The first group will not feel bombarded with information, and the latter will not feel that the topic has been oversimplified.
  • Make enough physical adjustments to suit the audience. This can be anything from changing where you stand to ensure the best visibility, speaking loudly and clearly for those sitting far in the back, and making sure that your visual aids are clear and effective for all.

Any Questions? Ideas? Reflections? Success Stories?

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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