Know Your Audience

How do you offer something valuable to your audience from your presentation? How do you meet the expectation or persuade your listeners? You must know your audience. Before you prepare your speech, consider your listeners. The way you develop your talk will depend on the type of audience in attendance, and the attitude and level of knowledge they hold on the subject. To connect with them, you need to understand why your topic is important and what they expect to gain from your presentation. Do not assume that the audience thinks like you or has a similar level of knowledge on the topic. There is nothing more insulting than to impart basic information to a highly knowledgeable audience or to present at too high a level, to a novice group. It does not matter whether you are presenting to a small assembly or a large crowd, there are many things you can to do in advance to ensure that your presentation engages your audience, and achieves the desired response and outcome.

When thinking about your audience, consider the following:

Age group

Are the audience children, work colleagues, elderly, or community members?


Is the group a mixture of males and females or a single sex?

Culture / religion

How do you build bridges or avoid offence?


What is their level of occupational knowledge?

Level of education

What type of language should you use, technical, persuasive, or everyday language?

The occasion

Is the event a wedding, a formal presentation, casual farewell?

Expected number attending

Will you be speaking intimately to a small group; more generally, to a larger one?

Seating and venue

Will they be seated at a dinner table, or in a theatre or ‘U’ shaped style; in a small room, or a large hall?

Time of day

Will they be energetic, tired, relaxed, irritable, hostile, enthusiastic?


What do they want to know? Are there prejudices or strong opinions?

Previous knowledge

Is your audience familiar with the subject matter or is there a need to simplify and explain?

Familiarity with audience

How will you include the audience in your speech, or refer to shared experiences?

If you are not able to gather this type of information before your presentation, then you may have to determine the answers at the beginning of the talk. Ask the audience questions to learn about them. Find out how much experience they have with the topic, this will allow you to gage the mood of the listeners, and decide on the depth of content and humour required. Then, adjust the speech accordingly.

Before you prepare a speech, discover as much as you can about the audience, their age group, gender, occupation, educational level, cultural and religious background, expectations, and previous knowledge on the topic. To create a connection with your listeners, tailor your presentation using the knowledge that you have acquired.

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