What do you want to say? First know your audience


I have not changed my communications mantra much over the years. I find that it serves me well. It is just three questions:

  • What do you want to say?
  • Who do you want to say it to?
  • How do you want to say it?

There are some other sub-questions to explore, but these 21 words are the point of embarkation.

Reaching and Audience is the objective, and getting them to stick with you is a goal. 

The first two may be interchangeable. There are circumstances when you are provided with an audience, then question two is answered for you. You still need to ask and find out more. My speaking and presentation disasters have only occurred when I have not sought out an answer to that question.

The speaking invitation

You are invited to speak. Chuffed, you say yes. Normally you next ask where and when. You wouldn’t settle for “It will be some Thursday in Scotland” answer, would you? While you need to know where and when you should turn up (and lots of other questions about the venue and whether you need a lead up time, or to recce the site). The “who?” part needs as precise an answer. Knowing about the audience is as important as the time and date.

The audience will affect your content.

Sometimes the “How?” part is answered, too. You are invited to lead a workshop, make a presentation (“PowerPoint, please”), make a speech (“No PowerPoint, please”), make an address a Synod. You still need to understand who your audience is.

“Synod, did you say?” Yes I once unexpectedly addressed the Chirch of Ireland Synod. It did not turn out a disaster but could have. An engaging and enthusiastic young clergyman invited me to speak to “a few people” during the Church of Ireland Synod in Dublin about my work as a broadcaster. “Just a few people around a table.” Later he told me, “The Archbishop will be attending, so maybe a little more formal.” I arrived in Dublin. At the Synod and right up to the moment I was led through a door to the main rostrum of the stage in front of what I can only guess was 1200 people, I thought I would be having a round table chat about “Thought For The Day”. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t good either. Especially when I saw my bank manager sitting there.

Know your audience before you begin to plan your presentation.

It is the same online. But more difficult. How can you know your audience on you Blog or Social Media? What does it matter?

From next January I will be teaching Online Analytics in Dublin Business School. I taught radio production in previous years, and I have a vague idea of who the audience is (students are). I hope/plan to reflect the progress of what I am teaching and to whom and how it changes here on my blog and on my LinkedIn.

I am amassing data and plans, talks, videos, articles. They are all being banked.

But first I must know my audience – I will tell you how it goes and how I discovered them, while teaching them something useful in about a month.

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