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Know Thy Audience

audience“Of the three elements of speech making – speaker, subject, and persons addressed – it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speech’s end and object.” Aristotle

Public speakers quickly learn that “one size does not fit all” in audiences. Every audience and every occasion is unique. Therefore, every speech should be unique. In Speak Up With Confidence, Carol Kent suggests that a speaker answer four general questions in describing the audience: Who? What? Why? How? Ask some specific questions, such as the ones below, to gain more knowledge of the audience.

Who?

  • Can you describe the age, sex, background and nationality of the group?
  • Are there resource people, magazines, or books that could help you better understand the audience?

What?

  • What denomination or organization unites these people?
  • What topics have been addressed at their past events?
  • What speakers have they had recently?
  • What are their hopes, struggles, fears, needs, and questions?
  • What are their common interests?

Why?

  • Why did they as me to speak?
  • Am I an expert on the subject they want to know more about?
  • Why are they here? Are they a “captive audience” (university chapel), or are they here by choice?

How?

  • How will I get their attention?
  • Are there recent statistics related to their needs that will help me prepare?
  • What does the Bible say about the answers to the questions they are asking?
  • Is this group geared to visual learning (data projector, videos, power point presentations, and/or handouts), lectures/discussion, or straight lecture?
  • How much time do I have?

Answering these questions will help a speaker gain specific information about the audience. Background research is an essential step in speech preparation! What questions do you ask yourself when preparing to speak to a group? Comment below!


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