Picture this: you're going into surgery with a doctor you don't know (who doesn't know you) and without asking any questions, the doctor decides to perform open-heart surgery. Here's the thing: you don't have a heart condition.
Pretty alarming, right? In fact, you might say it's downright scandalous. Yet speakers around the world walk onto stages everyday without knowing a thing about their audiences to speak on topics that might not be relevant to them at all. Sure, open-heart surgery might be an extreme analogy. But when you consider the influence and ability speakers have to change people's lives, suddenly you realize just how important it is for speakers to know who they're speaking to so they can craft a message that serves their audience best.
Here are 7 key questions to ask yourself as you prepare for your next big talk so your message captivates and resonates with the most important people in the room - your audience.
1. Who are they?
Before you sit down to craft your speech, you have to know some basic, yet important, information about the people you want to connect with: Who are they? What do they do? What are their interests? Job title? Professional affiliations? Are they students, retirees, corporate executives? What's their income, level of education, race, religion, ethnicity, politics? Knowing the answers to just some of these questions will help you frame the content for your next big talk.
2. Who are you?
What does your audience know about you? What preconceived notions, if any, do they have of you? What qualities, interests or values do you share with them? A bit of introspection beforehand can help you identify common ground so you can quickly establish rapport with your audience.
3. What's your audience's worldview?
How do they see the world? What do they value? What do they stand for? What do they stand against? What shapes their reality? By understanding what matters most to your audience, you can align your topic to their most cherished beliefs. For instance, if you're a nutrition expert speaking to a group of human resources professionals who value healthy work environments, you may discuss how food choices lead to happier, more engaged employees.
4. How relevant is your topic to them?
If you're a prenatal coach talking to a group of pregnant women, chances are you won't have to explain too much about, say, the benefits of proper prenatal care. But if you're talking to a group of college freshman, they may have no idea (or interest) in your topic. So it's important to ask: is my topic relevant to the audience?
5. What do they already know about your topic?
Sometimes, a topic is relevant to an audience but they don't know much about it which will require you to do some educating. For instance, if you're a cyber security specialist speaking to a group of banking executives about the threat of being hacked, you may need to explain what a firewall is or give statistics on the likelihood of attack.
6. How much does the audience need to know?
While you want to give enough information to make your case, you don't want to burden your audience with too much information so as to overwhelm them. Including dense details and research will only serve to confuse the audience, not educate them.
7.What objections do audience members have?
Smart speakers try to anticipate audience members' objections so they can respond to those objections early on in their talks. Doing so shows that the speaker is aware of where the audience is coming from and understand their reservations.
It's Your Turn
How well do you know your audience? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments.