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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chapter 5: Adapting to Your Audience

Chapter 5: Adapting to Your Audience


Adapting to your audience requires thorough analysis. Only then can you design a speech that is likely to accomplish your objective. Especially today, audience members represent diverse backgrounds, knowledge levels, and interests. Inter-acting with diverse groups of people presents many advantages, such as learning how to promote a more supportive communication climate and better articulate your own cultural identity. Demonstrating sensitivity to multiple audiences is a key quality of a successful public speaker. Techniques for speaking to diverse audiences include finding commonalities, establishing credibility, incorporating relevant supporting materials, using language that all audience members understand, and acknowledging all audience members throughout the speech.

When analyzing your audience, you gather two types of information: demographic and psychographic. Demographic information includes age, educational level, socio-economic status, religious affiliation, ethnic background, disability, and sex. With this information, you can draw some general conclusions about your audience's interests and needs. The perspective of those who invite you to speak is particularly valuable for gathering demographic data, and online sources of demographics and public opinion can also be of benefit.

Psychographic information refers to psychological data about audience members, including their standpoints, values, beliefs, and attitudes. This information provides important insights into what might motivate them. In many cases you will infer audience psychographics based on observable behaviors, such as what they talk about, what they read, and the activities they participate in.

A tool for psychographic data is to use demographic data and information, including age, sex and all other information (often referred to as “psychographics”).

One method for gathering demographic and psychographic data is the audience research questionnaire. Carefully designed closed- and open-ended questions can elicit valuable information about your audience's interests and needs as well as those of various groups within the larger audience.

Information from the audience research questionnaire can be integrated into your speech. Closed-ended questions provide trends and averages, and open-ended questions elicit audience members' feelings, expressed in their own words. Quoting clever or insightful remarks by audience members is a great way to capture their attention, support your main points, make transitions from one point to the next, or create an effective conclusion.

Adapting to your audience also means adapting to the setting in which you give a speech. The location is the physical place where you give your speech, such as an auditorium, a classroom, or the steps of the county courthouse. New communication technologies allow speakers and audiences to participate in events from different geographic locations. The occasion is the purpose of the event. Audiences may attend out of choice, or attendance may be involuntary. The time of the speech, including time of day, speaking order, and current events, also influences the setting for the speech.

Whatever your audience and setting, developing your credibility is crucial to your success as a speaker. Competence, trustworthiness, dynamism, and sociability work together to form a speaker's credibility.

Gallup Poll
Gallup has been polling people about their opinions for over 70 years.
This section of the Gallup site includes poll analyses
and an index of poll results listed in alphabetical order.
The National Opinion Research Center (NORC),
a national organization for research at the University of Chicago,
 provides in-depth, scholarly topical reports
on social issues with useful
national demographic breakouts.
Pew Research Center
This highly-respected organization collects survey data
on a wide variety of audiences. The Center includes
the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press,, Pew Internet and American Life Project,
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life,
Pew Hispanic Center, and Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Statistical Abstracts
A collection of statistics on social and economic conditions
in the United States, provided by U.S. Census Bureau.
Survey Monkey
The basic account is free. A survey is easy to set up
and for respondents to use.
ZAP Survey
The free account allows you to create a basic survey
to help you with audience analysis.
Zogby International
You'll find Trends Over Time, Zogby Interactive,
and Z Files the most useful parts of this site
in learning about various audiences for your speeches.

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