Types of audiences in presentation and public speaking
Launching your message. Making sure it not only reaches many people their minds, but also their hearts. It is a marketer’s challenge to get a message across – to let it resonate with the listener: be it in print, on the Web or through any other form of media. Public speaking however is often a form of communication that lacks the professional marketing attention. Presentations are often made by ourselves, on a late evening, alone, isolated in one’s cocoon, and without the support of a critical colleague. Some of us even getting lost in the design of PowerPoint slides.
Yet, a little more awareness about the different types of audiences in a presentation can already make a significant difference. It makes it easier to boast your persuasive speaking and to reach your target [audience]. In this blog we’ll therefore address the question:
“How to relate to your audience in the best way?”
This immediately raises the question; What’s the role of your audience, as a group and as individuals, and in what context are they listening to your presentation? In marketing plans a primary audience, a secondary audience and even tertiary audiences are defined to predict and measure the impact of a message. These different ‘layers’ relate to how far your message will end up. That is, beyond the venue in which you give your presentation. As it is already challenging enough to relate to your primary audience, we’ll therefore will stick to this group [but when you’re a frequent speaker – you might want to dive into these theories].
Based on example[s] we’ll take a tour along different crowds that are potential listeners to your story. From uninformed [audience] to subject experts and from students to board members. Based on your audience analysis, which you’ll notice almost is a psychological analysis, you’ll be able to make smaller and larger strategic decisions with regards to your presentation. For instance on questions like:
- Is there some sort or hierarchy in the group that needs to be addressed?
- Are there any cultural differences to take into account?
- How formal or informal do I address my attendees?
- Will attendees respond anonymous or non-anonymous to my questions?
- How do I create a sense of safety with help of my room setup?
Just like a professional marketer; find out who is listening, twist and tweak your story or even make radical changes and leave a lasting impression with your audience!
- As a speaker you carry authority based on your specific achievements, knowledge or based on a specific social status which your audience doesn’t have [yet]. This makes you and your presentation unique and it’s the reason why you are given the floor for your presentation;
- Authority however, in whatever form has a certain energetic impact on an audience. There’s never a complete neutral attitude of the audience towards you and your story. People can be a big fan of your ideas or they can almost be hostile towards them. This can already start with how you’re being anounced during an event or within an event program. It’s important to be aware of this;
- It helps to ask a short set of live questions to your audience. To sense their energy, to relate to their knowledge level and to get a better demographic/psychological analysis and understanding. You can do so by asking people to sit or stand up as a mean to reply to your question, or they can cast votes through an audience response system. This will help you to define the types of audiences in presentation. Plus, it is interesting for the attendees themselves too. Be aware that in certain cultures it might be a bit exciting to answer live questions from somebody higher in the hierarchy [e.g. in parts of Asia]. In such a case anonymous voting already helps to lower a barrier for an audience to give authentic feedback. Discover on the spot how your attendees relate to your topic and as such finetune your onward story. Speak with authority or maybe temper it somewhat – sense from the first minute how the rest of your story can have a smooth landing!
- A platform with a speaker and an attendee in an audience, easily triggers the resemblance with a parent telling something to his or her child. During public speaking, a neutral [audience] approach is almost impossible. Therefore the understanding of the Parent-Adult-Child model, a psychological model, can help you to further gain insight in your persuasive speaking style;
- The model implies that every person carries three characteristics within oneself: a Parent, an Adult and a Child. None of the roles is right or wrong, but in the very moment one role can be more effective than the other. A boss presenting to its employees, can easily be recognized as a Parent talking to a Child. Being aware of this analysis, can for instance help to adjust your tone more to an Adult, which also triggers the Adult character within the audience. Or more concrete: as a boss don’t tell employees what to do or what not to do, but address their own capacities and create a sense of empowerment instead.You can turn this into a live action by asking the audience: “How would you solve this?”. Let attendees discuss with their neighbour, to create ownership within the audience, and let them reply live or anonymous. After that, reflect on the input and give your idea maybe not as the solution, but as a suggestion. You’ll notice that analyzing the types of audiences, letting them play a role in your story, often results in a more well-received story and it supports your persuasive speaking.
Dealing with uninformed audience
Once you know better who your audience is and once you’re more aware of how you’re being perceived as a speaker, then relate your contribution to the right Parent-Adult-Child character and address a yet uninformed audience. From there the form and tone of your presentation develops almost automatically and strategic choices flow more natural:
- Less hierarchy? Do you want to prevent being perceived too much as an authority? Then take away the lectern to stand behind. Or leave the stage completely and stand in the middle of the room. Instead of your audience sitting in rows, seat them around you in a circle on an equal height. Almost as having a cat walk. Do you sense that actually more authority might help your message, then of course make use of that lectern, stage and seating in rows.
- Safe environment? Do you want to take away an unsafe feeling [e.g. when discussing personal or very strategic subjects]? Use an audience response system and allow students, business relations, members or employees to reply to questions anonymous. The use of such a tool also allows an online audience to participate in your presentation and discussion. During brainstorms for instance, it requires a lot of trust to share an idea. Plus you also like to foster creativity [the Child role!] in a group, so the use of anonymous replies can help building an energy of trust. At the end of the session you might not even need a tool anymore, simply because everyone will feel safe and will start to share freely annd happily!
Because of your knowledge about the audience now, some of these choices can be made so much easier. You’ll be able to tailor your story better to the crowd and its dynamics. Taking some time to figure this out, will help you to deliver a story that won’t be forgotten easily! In short, you’ll leave a lasting impression! So, what do you know about your audience?