An airplane traveling from New York to Chicago is off course 98% of the time. Still it gets there. Why? The pilot is always adjusting with the destination in mind.
For a writer, a speaker, a teacher, or a presenter, the audience is the destination. Connect with your readers and you’ll be home free. It may sound obvious, but it’s worth stating — if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to get there.
How to Speak or Write for Beginners, Experts and Forgetters Alike
Ever loved a blog one day and didn’t know why you went there the next? That’s a blogger who hasn’t picked an audience? Ever sit through a presentation in which the speaker brought a canned speech written widely and given to every group? That’s a speaker who doesn’t realize that different groups come to listen for different reasons.
It’s always important first to know what we want to say.
Without that, our ideas will be unfocused — like an airplane off its flight plan.
Equally important, we need to know who is tuning in what we’re saying.
Without that, the message sent may not be the message they receive.
So before you write, speak, teach, pr present, take time to reflect on the people who’ll be listening to what you have to say. Here are some questions to help with that. Take a shot at answering them all in a single sentence.
- Who am I writing for?
- What do they want to know?
- Why are they tuning into what I have to say?
Write down your audience profile. Revisit it every now and then as you write. Revisit every time you speak to a group. Adjust it as your readership grows or as the group you’re speaking to grows and changes. Use it as a guide to choose your ideas, your presentation style, and the stories and examples you use.
See if you can describe your audience in one sentence every time. Fine tune the sentence by considering the group and how they’re like you.
Most audiences are mixed with beginners and experts. Most of us are beginners on some things and experts on others. And we have forgotten some of what we once knew.
Our audience is likely to be a lot like we are — people tend to be attracted to people whose minds work alike. (We think people who think as we do are intelligent and and to think of those who don’t ,as not so intelligent or being difficult.) So as think about your text or live audience — beginners, experts, and forgetters alike — see them as intelligent people who simply need a refresher on what you are sharing.
With a clear destination — a message and an audience in mind — the minor decisions of communicating get a whole lot easier. It’s a matter of adjusting direction and timing to land it safely where you want it to be.
How do you know when you write or speak that you’ve chosen right for the audience you’re trying to reach?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Suzan St Maur says
I agree absolutely – there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all presentation or any other form of communication. And time matters, too; just because you know what a particular audience needed a year ago doesn’t mean their needs are the same now. A further problem is writing and presenting when you’re an “expert” – this article of mine explains:
All good wishes
Suzan St Maur
Deborah H. Bateman says
Thanks for sharing this post. It is nice to be reminded of these things.
Lee Silverstein says
Thanks for the timely advice Liz. I just joined Toastmasters so this is perfect timing for someone like me. Always enjoy reading what you share.
the writer says
a golden rule for writers – to think of your audience. I will add one more at the end of the list of these three questions:
* Who am I writing for?
* What do they want to know?
* Why are they tuning into what
(after you have written you)
* Have I written what I wanted to write?
Well the reason is that at times when you are writing, you can get carried away due to many factors. This question after writing and before proofreading or ‘fine-tuning
your write up can be really helpful.
This is actually the second blog I have read today that highlights the importance of audience and I have to say that you hit the nail on the head.
As a writer, it can be hard to convince others the importance of tailoring the message you are delivering to the audience that will be reading it–regardless of whether it is a book or website content, audience matters.