Know Your Audience

Business woman making the presentation and receiving applause

Your high school English teacher taught you several valuable things: how to write a five-paragraph essay, how to discern meaning from complex texts, and the importance of knowing your audience. This last part—the part about knowing your audience – is critical when you’re writing a resume, giving a presentation, developing a marketing strategy, or just interacting with other people.  You need to know who the target of your communication is so that you can tailor it accordingly. If what you’re saying or presenting is relevant to your audience, they will be engaged. 

A client recently told me about a presenter at her company’s user conference. Read on:

One of our board members got up to address the audience. He told the story of the accomplishments of his own business, a business that he started “with no resources. Just $1B in capital.” He also referred to the trusts he set up and funded for his grandchildren, along with the boat he keeps in St. Bart’s, where he also has a vacation home.

I don’t see how he could have thought that this was at all relatable. The audience was comprised of ordinary people, who have ordinary struggles, like paying for their kids’ college education or worrying about the recent layoff of a spouse. Having “only” $1B is not a struggle any of us could fathom. I talked to several attendees who mentioned that they were taken aback by these comments and didn’t take away much more from his presentation.

Yeah. So relatable. Next time, someone needs to do a better job prepping the board member before he gets up on the dais. Because the audience deemed his content irrelevant, they did not pay attention and retained nothing else, except perhaps the sense of arrogance that hung in the air.  

How do you get to know your audience and craft compelling content for them? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few practical tips:

Do your research in advance. Find out with whom you are communicating and understand why. 

Understand what they value. Whether your content is b2b or b2c is irrelevant. There are humans on the receiving end. Humans want to know that they are valued and that they matter. When they feel valued, they are engaged.

Communicate with purpose. Don’t communicate just for the sake of doing it. Communicate to convey ideas that help your audience.

Customize. Whether it’s a resume, cover letter, or presentation, customization is key. You want whoever consumes your content to feel that it’s relevant.

Audience in the cinema. Silhouette.

The bottom line

Knowing your audience and creating custom communications and content is a sign of respect.  Respect given is respect earned. Put in the effort to make your audience feel like you created the content specifically for them!


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