Tackling the Large Group: Sizing up your audience can make the difference

We have heard, many times, that you must know something about your audience if you are going to have an impact. After all, you are giving a speech to educate, motivate or change the opinion of every person who has given up valuable time to hear you.

To be relevant, interesting or even entertaining, you must research the recipients of your message. Are they mostly an educated group of college graduates with a high degree of interest in your topic? Or are they there because the company told them to be there? It makes a huge difference in how you approach the subject.

We’ve all been at long-winded speeches in which the speaker clearly has no idea of his or her audience, or even why they are there. We quickly tune out the person at the podium and struggle to stay awake for 40 minutes.

But there are the speeches you remember. For whatever reason, good, bad or indifferent, the content sticks with you. Discounting the bad — like the guy who called your favorite NFL team by the wrong name — there are steps you can take to make your speech a little more memorable.

Audience analysis is the term we use to describe our process for digging down into the data to see who we are talking to, why they are there, what are their interests and how we can get their attention in the first minute (after the usual VIP recognitions and thanks).

You have very little time to establish a rapport with the audience. Some say 30 seconds, maybe a minute or two, but never a half hour. You’ve got to hit them with the hard stuff up front. It must be something relevant to them — that is key. But how do you do that? Talk about your last visit to “this incredible city?” Or that your parents were born just up the road in Cleveland?

The “I’ve walked a mile in your shoes” approach is a common way to bridge the gap between you and the audience. Just make sure there is a connection or you will look like you’re trying too hard. (And make sure you have your facts right or they will remember you for the wrong reasons – like the NFL blunder.)

Whatever the approach, remember this: Facts do work. Statistics impress. And tailored messaging can bring people happily to your call of action.

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