In December 2002 I wrote a column on the
importance of knowing your audience. Nothing contributes more to the
success of a presentation than knowing about your audience. Here are six
questions to ask yourself before you prepare either a written document or
Who are they? When others ask me to look at something they have
written or look at an outline of a speech they plan to give, I always
ask about the audience. Many times they can tell me practically nothing.
You must learn as much as you can about your audience if you want to
make the document or speech fit them.
What interests them? Knowing such basic information as age, gender,
education level, interests, experience and beliefs of audience members
will help you choose interesting and informative supporting material.
What do they need to know? Failure to determine what the audience
needs to know causes many communicators to include extraneous or “nice
to know” material. Most busy people don’t have time for either.
What do they already know? There is no need to waste your time or
the time of audience members by telling information they already know.
This is especially true in the workplace where “time is money.”
What makes them different from others? Successful speakers and
writers determine what makes their audience unique; then they tailor the
message to the audience. Audiences react better when they realize the
message was prepared with them in mind.
What can I do to make it easy for them to understand? I will discuss
this point in more detail next month. Until then, remember effective
communicators meet the needs of their audiences.