Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Know your audience, their needs and expectations

The first of my Top Ten Public Speaking Basics

Helpful things you should know about your audience:
  1. How many?
  2. What are their positions or occupations?
  3. What is their background?
  4. What is their gender?
  5. What is their age?
More things you should know about your audience:
  • Are they experts in the subject?
  • How much do you need to tell them in order to achieve your objective?
  • What is their attitude to you and your subject?
  • What is their previous experience of your topic and how might this influence their attitude?
You should establish:

Why your audience is there: voluntarily? no choice? they invited you?
What they are expecting: to be informed? to be entertained? Beware of assuming that your objective and the audience's expectations are the same. You should make your message relevant to them.
What they need: e.g. if their immediate need is to cut costs they'll have a hard time hearing a message about how increasing expenditure in the short term will eventually save money.

My favourite and most useful general workplace needs come from Cristina Stuart of Speakeasy Training.

For management:
  • Saving money
  • Increasing productivity
  • Saving time
  • Improving quality
For staff:
  • Making more money
  • Being recognised for what they do
  • Job security
  • Job satisfaction
  • Career advancement
In a business context you'll find that if you can meet these needs it is easier to achieve the objective of your presentation. You'll probably be able to identify other needs for your particular audience.

I use aspects of NVC or Nonviolent Communication in my work. For this reason I ask speakers to think about how their speech or presentation contributes to fulfilling more universal human needs. For example, paying attention to the need for autonomy helps us to avoid sounding dictatorial or assuming that everyone's values are the same as ours. Our ability to empathise and listen helps us to align our objectives with those of the audience.

Some basic needs you can bear in mind:
  • Autonomy
  • Celebration
  • Integrity
  • Interdependence
  • Physical nurturance
  • Play
  • Spiritual communion
  1. Autonomy: choosing dreams, goals, values; choosing plans for fulfilling these
  2. Celebration: celebrating life affirming events; celebrating losses of loved ones, dreams etc
  3. Integrity: authenticity, creativity, meaning, self-worth
  4. Interdependence: acceptance, appreciation, closeness, community, consideration, contribution to the enrichment of life, emotional safety, empathy, empowering honesty which enables us to learn, love, reassurance, respect, support, trust, understanding
  5. Physical nurturance: air, food, water, movement, protection from life-threatening forms of life, rest, shelter, sexual expression, touch
  6. Play: fun, laughter
  7. Spiritual communion: beauty, harmony, inspiration, order, peace
Being mindful of both particular and general needs will undoubtedly help you deliver a presentation or speech that is relevant and meaningful to your audience.

Good luck!

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