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Group Dynamics

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Know Your Audience

Abhilash Vareekal

Bellevue University

July 30, 2012.

Perhaps you've given a few presentations but felt frustrated with the result, or you're thinking of being a presenter but may not know where to start. What seasoned speakers know is this - it's all about the audience, not you. How do you prepare efficiently while keeping your audience's needs in mind. (Gilman, S. 2012).

You should know at least the size, age, and education and experience of your group before you prepare your talk. One way to do this is ask your host or simply ask the audience some questions before you start. Will you be talking to a group of five, 50, or 500? This may not impact what you say, but it may impact how you say it and what you bring with you. A hands-on demonstration planned for a group of five will not work so well with a group of 50. So knowing the audience is critical.

Subject interest and knowledge of the audience is also a key thing. Just because people are attending the talk does not mean they know anything about the subject, or that they have the same level of understanding of the subject you do. Speakers are typically experts on their subject but do not mistakenly assume that the audience has the same level of knowledge, education, and background information. This is not true at all times.

Do the people in your audience have a high school diploma, two-year technical school degree, Bachelor's or Master's degree, or a Ph.D.? You need to talk differently to each group. You may need to dress differently for each group as well.

Another important thing that you know about your audience is their experience and expectations. There is a difference between knowledge and experience. Someone might be very knowledgeable about something (through reading), but may never have actually experienced the topic first hand. You may or may not be talking about something with which the audience has actual experience. If they do, that experience may not be positive. You could potentially be walking into a minefield. Ask the right questions before you start so you do not end up shooting yourself in the foot.

It is important to know what the audience is really expecting to get out of your talk. You may be very surprised with the answers if you just ask. If they are happy to listen and learn from you, but they end up buying from your competitor, you did not help your cause very much.

Audience may not have first-hand experience with your topic, but they may have strong opinions, and possibly not positive ones. It is human nature to form strong opinions, even if you do not really have any first-hand experience. Ask the right questions up front to find out what people think as opposed to



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