“Know your audience.” How many times have you heard this advice and wondered what it was supposed to mean?
To know as much as we can about our audience helps us establish a strategy to reach them more easily. So, what exactly should you know to help you through the preparation process?
Keep in mind that it is impossible to know everything about each member of your audience. The following helps guide you in of what you should – ideally – ask for to have a better idea of who they are. If you haven’t anyone to ask, you pick all the information you have on the audience and build your best guess.
This part of the profile should give you a have a generalist idea of who they are.
To establish a personal profile, you should focus on everything that can help you define their status and personality – family, religion, hobbies, sports, education, political ideas.
I’m not asking you to comment on them, only to have an idea to help you reach each person. Deep knowledge of such details can be beneficial to establish a connection – especially in small groups. It can help you, for example, to build good analogies – the ones that are close to your audience’s experiences.
Imagine, for example, that you’re telling a story about parenthood. If your audience is over thirty, this can be fun. Yet, if they are 16, you may want to focus on the point that parents are annoying…
Another important piece of information to build this personal profile is the audience’s personal motivations. What were their motivations to be there? Someone else ordered them? Are they willingly there? What are they looking for?
These motivations should be the center of your presentation. A good speaker builds the presentation around them. If you can meet their motivations, you win them!
Now that you know who they are and their motivations, it is time to gather another type of information – professional.
What’s their profession? If you’re giving a presentation, the job of your audience members can be an important clue of what they already know about your topic. Their technical knowledge on the subject is vital. You must know it to adapt the language to their understanding. Unless you’re talking to high-qualify personal from a single profession, avoid professional jargon.
This information is vital in any profile, but it is not all you need to know. To have a better grasp of who they are, and again, their motivations, you should know their professional position. For example, if your audience is full of doctors, are they interns? Residents? Are they working full-time in the organization?
Closely related to this information is their hierarchical position in the company. For example, the intern will more likely pay attention to a new diagnosis technique than the CEO. Yet, the CEO’s interest can help you win the audience.
How to identify a group’s profile?
Thinking about a person’s profile is relatively easy. You just need to gather some information. Things get more complicated when we’re talking about a group of people. This means different needs and interests.
The more homogeneous the group is, the better for the speaker, yet, this doesn’t happen often. In groups that are too heterogeneous, it is hard to personalize the message. You can follow the majority or the most important group from your perception or simply adapt as you go.
Empathy and attentiveness
The moment to focus on your speech is when you’re preparing it. Once you enter the stage, you must focus on your audience. This is what differentiates a good speaker from a mediocre one.
If you step in front of your audience with a very strict plan that doesn’t consider them, they will get annoyed. You must observe the audience, interact and try to perceive if they are engaging or not. If not, you must adapt your plan to fit your audience better. Even the best profilers can miss something. Make room in your plans to change things when needed.
How do you do this? With empathy! Look at them, try to understand them. Put yourself in those people’s shoes. Think to yourself, if I was sitting there… what would I like to hear/see? What would be useful to me? Why? Try to imagine how it would be if you had their job, culture, and motivations.
Know their needs and act on them
Knowing the people in front of you is the first step to generating empathy and creating value in your presentation. Getting a profile (even if it’s only a generalist one) of your audience will make the difference.
Your presentation or talk is to serve them, so act on that. Find out what’s important for them, what has value, and what satisfies their needs.