Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Tailor Your Content to Your Audience to Achieve Influence

To speak is to influence, and nowhere is this truer than in formal talks, speeches, and presentations. (To learn how to speak dynamically, download our cheat sheet, "5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.")

Like all presenters, you speak to positively change your listeners. Of course, this is not an easy proposition. Change is seldom easy, for audience members no less than for anyone else. It stands to reason, then, that the more you know about your listeners, and the more you can tailor your message to meet their needs, the more successful you will be.

Let's look at a two-step process that will allow you to succeed as fully as possible as a speaker: conducting an audience analysis, and creating a concept that specifically will reach and influence that audience.

The Audience Analysis

Speakers often start from the wrong place in putting together a speech or presentation: they focus on delivering information rather than the nature and needs of the listeners. But the sheer delivery of information is seldom interesting, without the realization on the part of audiences that they can benefit from the information. Anyway, how do you know what to include in your presentation until you understand the needs of your audience? This is especially important concerning the things you need to know to persuade or motivate audiences

Take the area you know well or that's part of your job. Imagine speaking to each of these audiences in turn:

  • A 4th grade class on Parent's Night.
  • Freshman college students majoring in this area.
  • A national conference of experts in your field.
  • A government panel considering legislation in this industry.

Your talk would have to be radically different concerning the content you include each time, wouldn't it?

So instead of aiming directly at the content you're going to start to amass for your talk, aim instead for your true target: your listeners and what they need to hear to truly benefit from what you're going to say.

In other words, conduct an audience analysis. Work in 3 main areas:

  1. Demographics
  2. Attitudes
  3. Topic Knowledge

In terms of demographics, in addition to the usual easily thought of questions concerning homogeneity, socio-economic issues, cultural issues, and education level, ask yourself this: "What is my role in relationship to this audience, and how will my status play out in speaking to them?" Are you aware, for instance, of necessary leadership qualities in public speaking?

Attitudes can play an even more important role than demographics. What does your audience probably expect from you, and what are their likely feelings toward you? What are their problems, concerns, and biases, and how will you motivate and persuade them given those attitudes?

As you ask yourself how much information your audience already possesses and what information they need, consider the questions they will have, and how they may challenge you. Finally, spend some time thinking about the relative complexity of the information you'll be imparting. Talking over the heads of listeners or insulting their intelligence, for instance, are equally risky concerning the influence you're trying to achieve.

How Can You Use the Information from Your Analysis?

Once you’ve performed an audience analysis, decide on the concept you are trying to communicate to your audience. You must do this before you decide on your content, because your content will in fact be determined by the concept you'll build your presentation around.

That's because a concept helps shape the information you’ll be delivering. It also helps you concerning staying fully focused and charismatic when you speak. Think of it as a THEME or the STORY you are telling. Or write a HEADLINE about your speech. Examples of each are given below. Your concept is thus a vehicle that helps you accomplish your purpose.

THEME: Sales are down at the lamp manufacturer where you work as Sales Director. Obviously, you need your sales managers to close more business. So you decide you'll inspire them to improve sales figures for next quarter. Your theme therefore becomes “Inspiring My Sales Force.” Once you've made this decision, you'll include information that will help bring your theme to life in your presentation. Examples might be companies that have come back from slumps, the inspiring story of Jill who has increased her sales 500%, etc.

STORY: As VP of Marketing at this national restaurant chain, you need a speech to motivate employees at the annual meeting. The chain is a well-known brand that has been in business 50+ years. What can you say that will excite your people? You decide you’ll tell the story of the company’s rise to the top. It’s a wise decision, because the brand started out as a small deli, and the owner built the business through hard work, family loans, and faith in his vision.  The story will remind the employees of the company’s roots and motivate them to keep the success story alive.

HEADLINE: It’s the start of the recession. Your social service agency’s budget is shrinking.  Government funding has remained steady, but grants from foundations have dried up. Morale is low. As Executive Director, you have to give your annual speech to staff setting out your vision for the coming year. You write yourself a headline, knowing that your speech will have to “live up to the headline” that will “appear” in tomorrow’s newspaper. “COMMUNITY PROVIDER FINDS WAY TO MAINTAIN STRONG SERVICES DESPITE BUDGET CRUNCH.” Now you have a concept to build your presentation around.

Congratulations. You haven't resorted to merely spraying information at your listeners as though you were wielding a presentation firehose. You've spent the time to analyze your audience so you meet their specific needs. Then you've put together a concept that will allow you both to reach these particular listeners, and do so in a way that is engaging and piques their interest.

You're speaking to a fortunate audience!

Key takeaways from this blog:

  • You speak to infuence, which means you have to understand your listeners.
  • Your final content depends upon the specific nature of your audience.
  • An analysis includes demographics, attitudes, and topic knowledge.
  • This knowledge will help you shape a concept that "speaks" to listeners.
  • Three possible concepts include theme, story, and headline.
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Tags: public speaking tips,audience analysis,tailor your content to your audience

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