The Power of Audience Analysis

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When giving a speech, it is important that your topic is adapted with regard to your audience’s age level, area of expertise, and belief. For example, you might choose to give a speech about your dog to your friends, but those silly stories might not be appropriate for your parents to present to their colleagues at work.


In order to ensure the topic you choose is appropriate for your audience, you can assess a few factors through a process I like to call “audience analysis”:


  1. Expectations – Why is your audience listening to you? What stakes are in this for them? What do they want to take away from your speech? 
  2. Knowledge – What does your audience already know about this topic? What gives your expertise credibility in their eyes? What level of vocabulary will your audience be able to follow along with?
  3. Attitude/Beliefs – How does your audience already feel about this topic or about similar topics? Are there any sensitive aspects to this that you should approach carefully? What point relating to this topic should you spend the longest addressing? Are your audience members here because they want to be or because they have to be?
  4. Demographics – How old is your audience? What is their cultural background? What professions are they involved in? What is their level of education? What genders are they? What hobbies are they most passionate about?
  5. Setting – Where are you giving this speech? How comfortable are you in this environment? Will there be a stage, lectern, or podium for you to use? How are the seats arranged in the room? Will you be presenting any visual aids during your speech? Are you the only speaker or will you be part of a series of speeches?

Now let’s try an example situation and run through each of these factors! 

Imagine you have to give a speech about a fiction book you recently read for your 5th grade English class. What factors should guide your speechwriting?


    • Expectations – Your classmates are all probably at different stages in their journey of public speaking, and it’s difficult to tell what they expect from your presentation. Just to be safe, put effort into being enthusiastic and interesting to listen to. Pick the most shocking plot points of your book that you can use as a hook to your speech without spoiling the story completely.
    • Knowledge – Your classmates all chose to read different books than you did, and so it’s likely most of them don’t know much about the plot of the one you chose.
    • Attitudes/Beliefs – Your audience is probably relatively neutral about the topic, considering the majority of them have no prior knowledge about this topic. They’re also probably not listening to your presentation because they want to – they just have to do what the teacher says. That’s why it’s even more important you make this speech engaging, so that your audience is pleasantly surprised.
    • Demographics – Your audience are all probably between 9 and 11 years old. Lucky for you, you are the same age, so you can probably judge for yourself what kinds of humor they might enjoy. Include jokes and descriptions that you think they will enjoy.
    • Settings – You won’t have to worry too much about stage presence because you’ll just be talking in front of your class in your normal classroom. This is a great thing for you because you’re probably pretty comfortable in your classroom! Just make sure to use gestures and to project your voice loud enough that the people in the back can still see and hear you. When practicing at home, say things a little louder than you think you need to and gesture a little more than you think you need to so that even with your nerves during the real presentation, the energy flows naturally. 

By thinking about these factors before each speech, you can ensure your speech will be easy for your audience to follow along with, understand, and relate to. Use audience analysis as your secret formula to an engaging speech!

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