How to Know Your Audience

You've heard the phrase "know your audience" but do you know how to do that? Of course it means to know who is in your audience, what their general preferences are, to know different ways to relate to them, etc. Assuming you know who you're talking to, how do you communicate in a way that allows them to easily understand your points? A perfect example of how NOT to know your audience is to speak in acronyms and technical jargon that others don’t know or care about. Or to leave gaps in your presentation that should give enough information to follow your lead. We’re all guilty of it at some point and there are ways you can improve your communication without a lot of effort.


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    Use words and phrases your audience understands. Instead of using an acronym or technical jargon, use a relevant word or phrase that provides the same meaning. For example, business people like to use SME’s (pronounced like "smees") to describe a person who is a Subject Matter Expert. The time you save by saying “SMEES” is lost when it causes an unfamiliar listener to try to figure out what you mean. Just say “Subject Matter Expert” or “Expert” or “Business Owner” or something to describe the same thing. If you cause your audience to have to think about your last words then they will stop listening until they figure out what you meant.
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    Be concise and talk about what’s important to your audience. If you have the opportunity to discuss a topic that you know a lot about, it is easy to talk at a level of detail that nobody can follow (or care about) except you. People typically only care that the overall process works, not how it works. In sales you talk about benefits with the assurance that the product works, not the features or how it works. Eventually the question will come up where you can bring up the details but that should be based on knowing that your audience wants those details.
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    Ask your audience what they want to hear from you. The titles people give you in introducing themselves at the beginning of a meeting may be impressive, but not necessarily indicative of what they care about. Don’t rely on their role or title. Instead ask how much detail your audience wants from you. This will not only help you earn their respect it also helps you stay on time and on track.


  • Knowing your audience means to communicate the way they communicate, and not forcing them to learn your method of communication. If they describe a product as a service, then use the word "service" instead of product. Ask questions to clarify what they want to hear and then be as concise as possible in appealing to their need to understand what you’re discussing. And while there are lots of other ways to know your audience, which I’ll bring up in future articles, these basic tools are the foundation for accomplishing your goals in any presentation, meeting or communication.

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Categories: Music Techniques