Wade Younger is an audience-centric speakers that delivers talks in which audience wants to hear, by using words, concepts, stories, and visuals which will resonate with audience members and lead them to action.
- But how do I know what the audience wants to hear?
- How do I know what will resonate with them?
- How do I know what they are thinking?
My team and I have identified and defined what audience analysis is, and understand what types of questions we should be asking about audience.
WY Audience Analysis
The WY Audience Analysis (WYAA) is the process of learning who our audiences are, what they are thinking, and how I can best reach them. An audience analysis is the process of learning who my audience is, what they are thinking, and how I can best reach them. Thoughtful audience analysis is one of the best habits we have developed as a speaker service. It helps us understand our audience’s perspective and provide maximum value for them. It provides insights that will help us focus our message, select the most effective content and visuals, and tailor our delivery to suit a particular target audience. The WYAA studies my audience along three primary dimensions:
- Who is in the audience?
- What are their individual and group characteristics?
- What does my audience know?
- What do they believe?
- What do they think about my topic?
- When and where are we presenting?
- Why is this audience listening to me?
DEMOGRAPHIC AUDIENCE ANALYSIS My aim for the demographic audience analysis is to discover who we are speaking to. Depending on the topic and message I request, some of the following questions will be relevant and some will not:
How old are they? A talk about investment options would be very different if I are speaking with teenagers versus a group nearing retirement.
Men? Women? Mixed? A talk about nutrition, fitness, or fashion may depend on the gender of my audience.
Are audience members predominantly a certain race, culture, or ethnicity? This might impact my message, choice of language, gestures, and other aspects of my speech.
Do they share a common primary language with me? If not, I may have to be careful with slang, idioms, and other language shortcuts.
What is their profession? Imagine talking about a scientific discovery with an audience of engineers versus accountants.
What is their religion? A talk about moral issues may depend heavily on the religion of my audience members.
What is their educational level? Imagine the difference speaking to high school students versus lawyers.
Are they members of a relevant organization? Imagine talking about volunteerism with members of the Lions club versus non-members.
What is their personality type? Introverts and extroverts have different preferences that may impact my seminar approach.
Other qualities relevant to my speech? Business leaders, marital status, cell-phone users, avid readers, marathon runners.
All of the above analysis may be impacted by qualities of the audience as a whole:
Is the audience homogeneous or heterogeneous? It usually makes my life easier if my audience is fairly homogeneous in certain ways. For example, I can be far more technical if I AM talking to a room full of engineers.
What is the size of the audience? Larger audiences dictate many presentation differences compared to smaller audiences. In addition, larger audiences will tend to be more heterogeneous, and so I can draw fewer conclusions about them. Finally, I consider how to relate to the audience with respect to several of the characteristics:
Am I similar to my audience, or are I different?
(Gender, age, profession, education level, etc.) Sometimes, it doesn’t matter. Other times, they will view me as an outsider, and that may influence my preparation.
Are they my peers? Co-workers or classmates
Are they my superiors or subordinates? Either could be good or bad… Psychological Audience Analysis The aim of psychological audience analysis is to discover what my audience may be thinking before and during my presentation. Psychological analysis covers both the knowledge (and lack of knowledge) and the beliefs of my audience. Audience Knowledge
- What do they know about my topic?
- What don’t they know?
These are critical questions to determine the “level” at which I target my presentation.
- What do they want to know?
- What do they need to know?
It’s critical that I satisfy their expectations. Otherwise, my presentation will be seen as a failure for them.
- What specialized terminology are they familiar with?
- Using acronyms and technical terms is okay in a presentation, but only if my audience recognizes them (or I take the time to define them).
- What concepts, processes, or tools are they familiar with?
Like terminology, I can draw upon these concepts, processes, and tools as I build my presentation. Consider them as building blocks that are already in place before I begin. It is also sometimes useful to gauge their knowledge compared to mine:
Do some members of my audience know more about the topic than I? This is a tricky situation to navigate. Audience Beliefs
Are they neutral, or are they predisposed to agree with or oppose my message?
Audiences of the three different types require three totally different presentations.
What are the most important values to the audience?
(Or, what are the values of their organization?)
It’s important to know what they value as these are often the best starting points upon which I can build my arguments.
What problems do they have?
If my presentation aims to offer them a solution, it surely helps if they agree with I that the problem exists in the first place!
Contextual Audience Analysis
If done well, my audience analysis will provide insights that will help me focus my message, select the most effective content and visuals, and tailor my delivery to suit this particular target audience. The aim of contextual audience analysis is to discover how the speaking event itself may influence my audience’s state of mind. In some ways, this analysis takes who they are (demographic) and what they believe (psychological), and pins it to a certain time and place where I’ll be speaking.
Consider the following questions:
Is their attendance voluntary or mandatory?
In most cases, audience members who are attending voluntarily are much more open-minded, more enthusiastic, and more motivated to hear what I have to say. On the other hand, mandatory attendees may require extra effort on my part to motivate.
- What has the audience been going through in the days or weeks prior to my speech?
- Have there been layoffs at the company?
- Has everyone been dealing with the impact of a storm?
- What style of presentation does the audience expect?
If my speech is part of a larger event, my audience may have certain expectations that my presentation will be similar to the others. Sometimes it is best to conform; other times it is best to stand out. My audience analysis lets me make a deliberate decision either way.
What are people wearing?
Not only will this dictate how I may want to dress, but it may also guide me in the level of formality I should maintain.
What time of day are I speaking?
- Before/during/after a meal?
- Early/late in the day?
Timing will influence my audience’s state of mind.
What obstacles or distractions exist in the room that may impact my audience?
Remember that I are speaking to individuals I try to meet privately with a lot of audience member before my presentation and learn about them and their expectations. However, this is sometimes practical. So, I am usually required to infer a great deal from my audience analysis instead. However, I don’t talk to amorphous blobs known as audiences. I talk to individual people, and no two people in my audience are identical. While the individuals in my audience may be similar in many ways, there will always be a range of characteristics: a range of knowledge levels, a range of beliefs, a range of expectations, etc. Even the best audience analysis will have a degree of uncertainty.
“You can have one foot in a bucket of ice and another foot in fire. But that does not give you an average temperature, does it. So there is no middle message that will touch everyone. The presentation has to be customized, or as I like to say, Customerized. – Wade Younger