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Public Speaking Essentials: Know Your Audience

Public Speaking Essentials: Know Your Audience
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Speeches are usually delivered for different audiences on different occasions in various settings, both formal and non-formal.

But, no matter the type of context or setting, an audience plays a crucial role in determining the success or failure of a speech.

Today, this article focuses on the key elements to grasp the attention of an audience.

Know Your Audience

Know Your Audience

I guess no matter how many times it’s repeated, it can never be enough.

An audience isn’t just a passive group of people who come together by happenstance to listen to you. They are here because they are interested and are expecting you to deliver your speech effectively.

And so, if you want to make a positive impact and a successful speech, it is essential to know your audience characteristics – their beliefs, attitudes, age, education level, job functions, language and culture – which are some of the most important aspects for developing your speech.

Audience Link and Interaction

The purpose behind analyzing an audience is the need to discover information that will help create a link between the speaker and the audience.

This is called “link identification.”

Aristotle loosely called it “finding common ground.”

It is not just a one-way communication process between a speaker and his/her audience, but more a two-way transactional thing.

When you ask an audience to listen to your ideas, you are asking them to come partway into your experience as a speaker.

For instance, during a presentation or a speech, asking some audience members a few simple questions would require them to respond, like raising their hands or other non-verbal gestures.

Keep Your Eyes Focused on Your Audience

Did you know that most, if not all, charismatic speakers make liberal use of eye contact?

They pick people out of the audience (more than one, so as not to appear creepy) and look right into their eyes when talking.

“I’m talking to you!” is the message they try to communicate when they adopt this approach.

And, trust me, it is indeed a very smart strategy that even politicians love to adopt.

Use PowerPoint Wisely

Use PowerPoint Wisely

PowerPoints act as a visual support and the audience does not have enough time to read everything written and it is the speaker who must try to use them for a rather quick reference to avoid any kind of deviation from his/her speech objectives. It is advisable for the speaker to elaborate or

explain in his/her own words, style and language, giving examples where appropriate.

Remove All Distractions

Many of us have the habit of multi-tasking – from web browsing, checking and replying to emails, working, talking or fiddling with our phones to writing in our notebooks.

But, when you are in the midst of an important presentation or speech, you should ideally stop what you are doing and give the person your full attention. Doing so is a sign of respecting the receivers or the audience

Read Your Audience Response

The speaker can easily observe the audience’s response during his/her delivery on the spot and can guess the interest and the possible impact, positive or negative.

For instance, non-verbal signs from the audience usually give some indication to the speaker who must make an effort to adjust or continue further.

How about some examples?

  • You know you’re at a bad talk when the audience members are either more glued to their watches, phones or laptops than to the speaker.
  • Coughing, yawning and uncomfortable rustling add further to the image of an inattentive, if not resentful audience.

In case the audience is attentive they will listen carefully with eye contact directed towards the speaker rather than elsewhere. This is a good sign and the speaker must continue his/her presentation as the message is well received.

Be a Good Listener

Be a Good Listener

To be a good listener, you have to be present, that is, on the alert. Being present means not being preoccupied with other things, removing all sorts of distractions and paying attention to what’s being communicated.

If you know some other key points, how about sharing them with us in the comment section below?

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