Haris Ahmed Chicago Consultant on Getting to Know Your Audience
Haris Ahmed of Chicago management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. has nearly two decades of experience as an organizational change expert and executive coach. He is an experienced facilitator for leadership workshops and team-building sessions.
When it comes to public speaking, it’s been said time and time again that the audience is the main star of the show. But what does this mean, and what are the steps taken to get to know the audience? In public speaking, getting to know the audience falls under what is also known as audience adaptation. It involves analyzing the audience’s attitudes and beliefs, their gender, age, religion, where they come from, and so on, and taking these different elements together to arrive at a speech that has been adapted to become more audience-centric. In concept, this sounds simple enough, but in actuality, it’s a ton of work, often requiring practice and multiple trials.
Get to Know Your Audience
Why is it so important to get to know the audience? Often, people can get caught up worrying about what to say and how they might come off with their speech, forgetting that the audience’s attitudes and beliefs are what can determine a speech’s success. Take for example a local politician that plans to open up a city for more businesses and investments. The residents in the area may have safety concerns, given their religious and conservative backgrounds. Rather than emphasizing on the numbers and economic benefits of such a move, the politician could have addressed the safety issues in his/her speech, thereby winning the city’s support. Surveys or simply having an ear on the ground can help identify such attitudes and beliefs. In fact, this is common practice in the political arena, wherein politicians and elected officials get to know the needs and concerns of their constituents through surveys, questionnaires, forums, and town hall meetings, to name a few.
What Should You Figure Out
Audience adaptation in presentations encompasses several factors, the most basic one being a demographic analysis. Age, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and one’s educational level are some of the factors looked at. Same as the example above, figures in the political sphere heavily rely on demographic analysis when giving speeches on the campaign trail. Depending on the type and size of the audience, they may adapt their speech and cater exclusively to the attitudes and beliefs that audience. On the other hand, for broader and more diverse audiences, the speech may be watered down, avoiding pandering to any one group’s interests. Instead, the speech could be peppered with pieces of vital information that must be said.
As one might guess, a lot of research and legwork goes behind audience adaptation efforts, but the time, cost, and efforts taken are certainly worth it. Conducting surveys, questionnaires, forums, and town hall meetings are not viable for everybody, but what they can do is to ask the person who arranged the speaking engagement what kind of audience are expected to attend. This, at the very least, can give one a starting point from which to build the speech around.
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