Audience Analysis: Who are they?

Presentations Skills

Much of my success in speaking to groups happens because of the questions I ask before I even begin to prepare my talk.  Most speakers think to ask basic questions, but not beyond.

The basic questions to have answered fall under the “Who Are They?” category:  age range, gender mix, group size, educational background, experience, knowledge of the topic, and any particulars you may know about group values or perspectives.  Of course any information about individuals in the audience is critical.

Here are some questions that go beyond:  What does the audience know about me, and will they find me a credible source?  What more might they need to know and how will I communicate that?  What are their format expectations in terms of formality, visual aids, and handouts?

Even more:  How will they be feeling in terms of time of day, and being hungry or tired.  What will have just preceded me on the agenda, and what is following?  What will their feelings be about my topic and will they be positively or negatively biased towards my recommendations or conclusions?

Finally, how will I answer the question the audience will be thinking the entire time which is “What’s in it for me?”  How will I persuade them to see the benefits of what I am there to share with them?  How will I make it matter to them in a very real way, logically and emotionally?

Of course, asking these questions is important, but not as important as actually finding out the answers.  And that usually means not just going with my guesses and assumptions, but talking to someone who knows the audience and finding out whatever I can from someone else’s perspective.


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