How to analyze your audience and land your message

Asking key questions will help you identify who they are, why they’re there and what they need from you. Plowing into a presentation without that preparation is risky at best.

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What would you think of a dermatologist who diagnosed a rash on your leg—without bothering to look at it?

Not much, probably. No wonder it makes me nervous when I see presenters rushing into an audience without knowing anything about the people to whom they’re speaking. They’re making a comparable mistake.

If you’re going to ask people to do something new or think in a different way—most talks are intended to move listeners from one point to another—it’s essential to consider one often-overlooked piece of the speaking equation, without which none of your other efforts will matter: the audience itself.

These 10 diagnostic questions will help you decide the overall approach you should take:

1. Who are they?

Knowing something about your audience’s age, income, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, profession, political affiliation, professional experience, job title, educational background, organizational memberships and hobbies can change the way you frame your topic.

2. Who are you?

Does the audience have a pre-formed opinion of you, your organization or your profession? If so, and if they’re prone to view you skeptically, you’ll want to establish common ground early.

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