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This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Public Speaking. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at http://www.thinkwell.com/student/product/publicspeaking. The full course covers getting started, preparing a speech, presenting the speech, audience considerations, types of speeches, small group communication, and more. The course features three renowned professors: Jess K. Alberts of Arizona State University, Brenda J. Allen of the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dan West of Ohio State University.
Jess K. Alberts is a professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where she was Director from 1995 until 2004. She currently serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project and is an associate with Project for Wellness and Work-life. Her research appears regularly in academic journals, and she recently co-authored “Human Communication in Society”. Undergraduates at Arizona State honored her classroom teaching skills with a "Last Lecture Award," and she has twice been a finalist for Professor of the Year at ASU. A nationally known speaker on interpersonal communication, Professor Alberts has given numerous presentations across the country on humor, conflict, and developing and maintaining a passionate life.
Brenda J. Allen is departmental chair and a professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, where she teaches organizational communication. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on organizational communication and diversity and she serves on the editorial boards of several communication journals. In 2004, she authored the book “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity”. While at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, she has been recognized with the First Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Diversity and she received the Francine Meritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication from the Women’s Caucus of the National Communication Association. Professor Allen is frequently invited to speak at community and professional events.
Dan West is the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics at Ohio University. Previously, he was a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he also acted as Director of Forensics. Under his direction, the team consistently placed in the top ten at national debate tournaments. While at Rice, Prof. West won the Outstanding Faculty Associate for Brown College (1999) and the award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (four times). He is well known for using his engaging speaking style in a variety of settings; his annual presentation of the Rice University Alcohol Policy to the freshman class was always a hit.
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These magazine ads demonstrate an extremely important aspect of audience analysis, and that is that a common component of audience analysis is to customize the communication for that audience. This is a similar concept that occurs when you develop and deliver your public speaking presentation. You should try to conduct a careful audience analysis, and I'm sure that makes common sense, but I believe it's important for us to take a little time to think about exactly why this is important.
Well, audience analysis, of course, consists of conducting research to discover what you can in terms of information and insight related to your audience, to try to get people to listen to you. Remember, public speaking is audience-driven. You always have to keep the audience in mind, as contrasted with the conversation, when the communicators usually are on equal footing. In the public speaking situation, the audience listens while you speak.
The audience tends to be egocentric. I'm sure you know that word, and if not you can figure it out. Ego (the "I"), -centric ("centered"): "I am the center of the universe." So because audiences are centered on themselves, you, as a speaker, really need to be concerned with their needs and their ideas for the occasion. What are their expectations? And they're going to bring expectations. They're going to have expectations about you, they're going to have expectations about the occasion, they're going to have expectations about the topic or the purpose of your presentation, and all of these may affect, then, ultimately how they receive both you and your speech. That's just one, in a nutshell, why analysis is important. But I think we should take a little more time--and of course, we're going to--you see where I'm going, right?--to look at why audience analysis is so important.
For one, if you analyze your audience with care, you can choose a timely and appropriate topic. You can tailor it specific to whatever is going on in their group. Let's say you're going to do a presentation to a group of technology salespeople, and you know they have a history of doing a certain type of presentation aids--let's say overhead projectors. Well, perhaps if you didn't do your homework, you'd miss that they'd just had a major development, maybe within days of your presentation. So if you did the homework, and you could bring that in in terms of "Congratulations on the new project, and it looks like it's really going to be a hit"--if you didn't know that and you prepared a presentation that looked at the next-to-the-last development, then you would be thrown off. And the audience would have a sense of "Well, wow, how could she come here and not know we just did this major thing." So that's an example of why it can help you choose a timely, as well as appropriate, topic.
You also can present interesting, relevant issues and examples. And by the way, you'll find as I list some of these reasons that they overlap. And that's okay. It's really a way to punctuate just how important this is. So in addition to choosing something that's timely, you can also select something that's interesting and also relevant to your audience. You can begin to anticipate and attempt to address the audience's expectations when you do your analysis, and that comes, for example, as you query the person who invited you: "Why did you invite me? What do you think they're going to expect?" When you get that information, that gives you some insight as you move on and prepare to deliver the presentation.
Doing this kind of audience analysis can also increase your self-confidence, because if you do your research thoroughly, you can develop an effective speech. One of the things that I tell students in my internship class--students who are doing internships outside of their classroom experience--is that when you get ready to go for a job interview for those internships--and indeed when you want to go for a job interview period--you should thoroughly research the company. You'd be surprised that even when you get in the interview situation, you may not even say anything related to what you found out in doing your research, but there's something that that does for your confidence once you're there, because you know if anything comes up, you'll be prepared for it. Moreover, you are thoroughly familiar with the audience, whether, again, it is during this interview situation, or it is you in the spotlight doing a public speaking presentation. So it can help you to be more confident and probably to appear more poised.
Doing audience analysis can also help you to choose and use appropriate language so you will know the kinds of jargon and terminology. Perhaps if you understand the education level of the audience, you can try to select vocabulary that's relevant for them.
It will also help you in terms of nonverbal communication. Maybe, for instance, if it is an older audience, you might not want to be quite as animated. And I don't want to generalize here, so notice that I said, "maybe," because it's really going to depend on the situation, but that's some of the issues you want to consider as you're doing your analysis. And certainly younger audiences tend to want more animation, simply because of being brought up in the generation of television and other media.
That also relates to--doing audience analysis will help you to select your presentation aids, that maybe you want to do more multimedia, snazzy, sophisticated things for younger audiences. Or for audiences, for some reason, you find, probably would prefer and, again, expect you to use certain kinds of technology, whereas others might want you not to. And again, it's going to depend on what you discover when you do your analysis of which of those you would choose.
It also will help you to know their viewpoint of whatever the topic is, their viewpoint of you as a speaker. Perhaps if you are going in as an expert and someone who's really revered in an area of study, and you know that these people look up to you, that will affect, or should affect, how you're going to do the presentation. Whereas if you're a rookie of some sort, a novice, an unknown, then you want to do certain kinds of things to help the audience understand that you know how they might be viewing you, you respect that, and you came to give the presentation accordingly.
A final point is that if you do audience analysis well, it can help to increase your credibility with the audience. It's just the whole idea that you took the time to learn about them. I think we're all flattered when someone takes the time to understand our perspective.
Those then are a few reasons beyond the obvious. You need to do it so you know about the audience. I mean, that's kind of circular reasoning, rather than going into some more detail about the specifics of what you can gain. I offer these to you as a way of encouraging you to be sure to take the time to do that homework. Even if you're doing a presentation for your classmates, you shouldn't assume that you know who they are, and what they prefer, and what their perspectives are going to be.
And speaking of classmates, let's take a look at a clip of Clayton, who is talking to his public speaking class.
Have you ever felt the adrenaline rush as you frantically raced to finish a paper, study for an exam, prepare an outline for a speech in a public speaking class? I'm sure you have. It's called procrastination. It happens to a lot of people. I know that about most of the people that I know can say that they are the king of procrastination. "Oh, I'm the worst at it." As a study that I found on the Internet news bureau of press releases, which just compiles--it's kind of like a big, you know, compile of news stuff--65 percent of students struggle with procrastination. Sixty-five percent. That's a lot.
Well, how did Clayton do in terms of seeming to have done audience analysis? His introduction indicates that he really identified with his audience. He gave some examples of things that students routinely go through, and in that regard, he did a very good job. Imagine, though, if Clayton were to do that same presentation to a group of people--let's say he's doing an internship at a local CD-ROM publishing company. What do you think he would say to those employees if he wanted to do a speech on that same topic of procrastination, and how would he get that information? I think he could talk with some of the people. He might want to go to the company and observe what they are doing. If they have a newsletter or some sort of information, so that he could do the same kind of opener in terms of giving some examples of that adrenaline is rushing when you have to get a shoot done at a certain time, when your final report is due to John--let's say he uses the actual name of the president of the company--and so forth.
So those are some reasons why audience analysis is extremely important. And so what Clayton did in that presentation is target his introductory comments to demonstrate he understood something about his audience. Just like the magazine ads that we opened with, effective speeches ought to be audience-centered.
The Audience ! Audience Analysis [page 2 of 4]
The Importance of Audience Analysis
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 81611/10/02
The Audience ! Audience Analysis [page 1 of 4]
The Importance of Audience Analysis
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 81611/10/02