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Understanding your Audience

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Understanding your Audience

Understanding your Audience

Crystal had been asked to speak to a group of customers who were taking a tour of her plant. She was supposed to talk about the area where she and the other members of her team worked.

"What will I say?" Crystal wondered. "I've never given a talk like this before." Finally, she decided to discuss it with her supervisor.

"They're not technicians, like you are," Ms. Muniz, her supervisor, explained. "They don't need to know all the details of the manufacturing process."

"That's right; they're customers, aren't they?" Crystal said. "They want to be sure we're manufacturing quality products." "Exactly," Ms. Muniz agreed. "So briefly describe how you carry out our quality process." The most important step in preparing any presentation is to understand your audience. "Before you start," advises Donald Walton in his book Are You Communicating?, "it's wise to reflect on who your audience will be and what their primary interests are."

Listener Analysis

As you prepare a talk, conduct a listener analysis to analyze the people who are going to receive your talk. This is similar to what you'd do before starting to write a memo or report. This information will help you determine what to say.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do my listeners want to know? If you don't provide information that interests them, you'll put them to sleep. Find out what they care about and cover this material in your talk.
  • How much do they already know? They may be experts or they may know almost nothing about your topic. You don't want to "talk down" to your listeners. But you also don't want to speak over their heads. Determine what your audience knows and pitch your talk to your audience's level of understanding.
  • Where do they stand? Your listeners may be likely to agree with what you're saying, or they may need a lot of convincing. Find out their attitudes; then determine what to say to persuade them of your point of view.
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