Friday, April 1, 2011
Where is your audience starting from?
When I walk to my Toastmasters club meetings along Crescent Rim Drive in Boise, I pass something embedded in the concrete curb (north of where Peasley Street ends) that most people will miss. It is a Reference Mark, or survey marker, from the National Geodetic Survey (a convex brass disk). This is a secondary mark, so it has an arrow pointing back towards the primary one in that set.
Your speech should take your audience on a journey. But, first you need to find where they are starting from. Then you can meet them there, and bring them along with you. One rubric that lists eight public speaking competencies begins with:
“Chooses and narrows a topic appropriately for the audience & occasion.”
There was a recent post on Ten Things Leaders Need to Know About Audience Analysis. You also can find brief discussions of how to analyze your audience in blog posts by Tom Antion, Ian McKenzie, and Ron Kurtus.
The ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide has a very detailed article on this topic. You can either look on the list of Interactive Modules and click on Audience Analysis, or the Modules in PDF Format and download a 14-page printable version, entitled The Significance of Audience Analysis: Strategically Considering Your Target Populace. It discusses five different layers of audience analysis:
Situational (Why are they here?)
Demographic (Who are they?: age, gender, education, ethnicity, relifgion, etc.)
Psychological (attitudes, beliefs, and values)
Multicultural (How many distinct groups?)
Topic interest and prior knowledge
Two other textbooks also have downloadable sample chapters about audience analysis: The Public Speaking Handbook (by Steven and Susan Beebe) and The Speaker: The Tradition and Practice of Public Speaking (by Joseph M. Valenzano and Stephen Braden).
Most people will miss seeing that survey marker because they are looking north at the landscape shown above, with the eastern edge of Ann Morrison Park in the foreground, and then the Boise River Greenbelt, downtown, and the snow-covered Boise Foothills.