By Gerry Wakeland
When you speak, or write, how often do you think about your audience? I have gotten into the habit of trying to picture my audience as I prepare my message. It helps guide me as I choose examples and illustrations, even references.
Last week I had the opportunity to coach one of our recent CLASS grads with a speech she was preparing for a women’s conference this fall. She had worked hard to follow our PIER principle. However, the one thing I noticed in her examples were how they did not really fit.
Think about it. If our goal is for our audience to identify in some way with our personal stories and examples they need to match the people group we are talking to.
In the CLASSeminar we teach a session on “Knowing Your Audience.” If you have attended the seminar, you may remember that this is the session when we teach on the personalities. “Personality types matter when you speak. What you present and what the audience understands depends on personality types. If you know your own personality and how to engage each personality type, your presentation will be stronger.”
This is one of the reasons that we encourage speakers and writers to take Personality Training. It gives them a clear understanding of the four personalities: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic. This equips them to address each one in a way that will be most accepted.
A sanguine presenter is likely to speak loud and fast, telling story after story. This is apt to drive a melancholy listener crazy to the point of tuning the sanguine out. If the sanguine presenter understands the needs of the melancholy they will learn to slow down, offer more concrete information and fewer stories.
Florence Littauer trained the CLASS staff to pick up the USA Today and scan it before every morning session so that we are aware of the latest news. Often, Florence would change her opening remarks based on a current event or some hot topic in the community we were working in. Karen Porter teaches the importance of following trends and knowing what is going on in the world. She demonstrates how to do this using internet resources.
It is also helpful to know the age, socio-economic, gender, and general information about the group you are addressing. Do your homework. Talk to the event planner and ask questions. Your presentation will be more meaningful if it is filled with information pertinent to your audience.
If you are speaking for a religious group you should also gather information about the denomination of the group you are speaking to. A colleague of mine tells this story. He was invited to speak to a group of pastors. Being a pastor himself, he was not concerned about the topic they had asked him to address. He was to make two presentations, one before lunch and one following. In the middle of his first session he watched as the expressions of the entire room of pastors changed drastically. The temperature in the room went from warm to icy. He finished his presentation and took his seat. At the lunch break the meeting planner took him aside and explained that some of his comments were contrary to their doctrine. He was not allowed to speak in the afternoon. This was a hard lesson for my friend.
I was grateful that the young woman I was coaching was open to my comments. She was willing to be pruned. And right away she could see how some changes I suggested would make her presentation more dynamic. She saw the importance of knowing your audience so you could speak to their needs.
The next time you are preparing your speech or writing that next blog or article, think about your audience It may make a difference in how your material is received.
To find out more about The CLASSeminar or Personality Training visit www.classeminars.org