(11) Tips to help you know your audience

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

The concept of knowing your audience may in fact seem like an elementary concept, but when you peel back the layers on this one, it really is anything but simple. In fact, it can quickly get complex, and this is why when people are presenting to an audience of either one or many, the outcome of the communication can go in a different direction than they intended. Sales people tend to be the best at knowing and reading their audience, as they have a great deal of practice doing this, but not all sales people are at the same level of proficiency in this area. The emphasis on practice is how most people become much better at reading their audience. 

Since most people are not salespeople, or may in fact not have as many opportunities to present to others, how do they become better at knowing their audience, and what are some techniques they can apply to become better at this concept? Here are some points to consider to increase your chances of knowing your audience better, and having a more desirable outcome from your interaction. 

  1. Don’t make assumptions about how they are going to react to your information. There is an old but wise adage which breaks down this word into not making an “ass” out of “you” and “me”. 
  2. If you do not know the person or people you will be communicating with well, when possible, simply ask them what their preferred methods of interacting with them are. You may not be able to appeal to everyone’s preferred method, but you will have a better chance of appealing to them when you ask this question. 
  3. Depending on how you will be communicating with your audience, if it is via a visual method such as slides, make sure your slides don’t break every rule in terms of the best practices for presenting information. In other words, keep the number of words on your slides to an absolute minimum, don’t use graphics which are not coordinated with the message and after you have created the slides, step away from them for a few minutes and come back to see if they pass the KIS rule of “Keep it simple”. 
  4. Ask the person or people if they are “ready” to hear what you have to say. Think back to when you were in elementary school and how the teacher would always start with getting everyones attention before they spoke. 
  5. Keep an eye on your audiences body language. If you are speaking too long and not allowing them to interact with you in some manner, you will likely loose their attention. If you see this happening, ask the person or audience if they have a question, and if no one asks one, throw in a question someone should be asking.
  6. When presenting to executives, it is best to be extremely succinct with your information. Tell them up front what your “ask is”, or what you expect the ideal outcome from the meeting to be. Whenever possible, keep the content being discussed to no more than 15 minutes in length. If you can’t communicate what you have to say in this period of time, chances are what you will be communicating will not be impactful and obtain the results you desire. 
  7. One on one communications with people you know well may seem like the easiest audience to communicate with, but again, the time of day, the place you are meeting, the content and how enthusiastic you are about the content can all play a significant role in having a positive outcome.
  8. Before you begin speaking, make sure you are in the right frame of mind, and think of yourself as being on stage. Would you come out on stage and start speaking in a monotone voice, with poor posture, eyes starring downwards and seemingly lack energy while you are presenting? Of course not, but lots of people present information to their “audience” this way, so make sure you are not guilty of doing this too. In other words, fake being an “actor” if you have to, or at least until you feel confident enough in coming across as being enthusiastic about the information you are conveying. 
  9. When presenting to a “live” audience or even one or a few people, make sure you are positioned in a place where they can see and hear you well. Ideally you should be standing if you are presenting visual information, and at the front of the room. Many people make the mistake of sitting and presenting their information in these situations, and miss the opportunity to commandeer the audiences full attention when they do not stand up. 
  10. If you do not know your audience well, do some basic research on them (e.g., check them out on LinkedIn, or read their bios on their company website if they are at the executive level, or Google their name and see what information comes up about them.) If possible, ask others that work with, or know them well enough to provide you with information about how they like to have information presented or conveyed to them. All of this information can give you greater insight into who you are presenting to, and clues in terms of how to ideally appeal to them with the information you are conveying to them.
  11. The final tip is a bonus one, and is to make sure you send a summary of the information to them via an email. Keep it short, and leverage this communication to convey your key points to make sure they were passed along to your audience.

Now that you have some tips on how to “know your audience”, go out and start putting these concepts into practice. As I stated earlier, practice is the key element to what makes understanding your audience something you can become quite good at. Let me know what you think after you have tried some of these tips.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Ms. Murphy has been quoted in Money.com, featured in the Huffington Post and speaks at conferences on the business topics around the globe. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

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