11 Jan The Audience: The Honored Guest at your Communication
If you’re like most people, you plan a communication event by thinking about what you want to say. You think of clever, succinct turns of phrase; you collect supporting anecdotes; you review past commentary on the subject at hand; and you envision yourself sounding brilliant.
This isn’t a bad strategy, but it leaves out the most important consideration: your audience.
Think about it – if you have no audience, if no-one is listening to you, your brilliant presentation is worthless. And further, if you do have an audience, but they aren’t buying what you’re selling, or if they don’t care about it, or they’re annoyed by it – again: worthless.
So, rather than starting with what you have to offer, start with the recipient of your offering. More specifically, start with what you want from your recipient. Usually when we speak to someone we want something from them. It may be as simple as wanting them to agree with us, or wanting them to like us, or wanting them to know that we bring good will. At the other end of the spectrum of wanting are messages that are meant to get the audience to do something, maybe even something that they don’t want to do. Maybe we want them to accept bad news, to change behavior, to acknowledge fault, to write a check, to give permission, to forgive, to consider a different concept, or to hear a criticism. Whatever it is, we usually expect something from that audience, and the ways we speak will determine whether or not we get it.
So instead of starting with clever phrasing and stories, start with a statement of what you want your audience to do, and begin figuring out how best to get there.
Being with your purpose statement, ‘At the end of this talk, I want my audience to……..” and consider these things that might make your audience want to do whatever it is.
- What’s in it for her? How will she benefit from doing this, what will she get out of it, what will appeal to her?
- How can you make the situation easy for her to accept?
- What does she already know or think about this situation? Do you need to do any explaining or instructing?
- Is there any resentment or other emotional factor that affects this situation? What can you do to relieve that?
As you begin to answer these questions, other considerations may come up, and eventually you’ll see the path to your purpose. You may notice that it isn’t persuasive to talk about yourself and what you hope to gain, that your position and your ideas don’t answer any of the above questions.
If you begin your planning with the end goal firmly in mind, you’ll select only those phrases, stories, or arguments that help you get there, and planning your talk will be much easier.
And if you’ve done your job well, regardless of the outcome, your audience will feel honored.