• Unit 2: Analyze Your Audience

    Audience analysis provides context and is the foundation for speaking effectively and appropriately to any audience. In this unit, we explore what audience analysis is, some methods for analyzing an audience, and how the language we choose affects our communication.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

    • 2.1: Audience Analysis

      Audience analysis outlines what we know about our audience to help us connect with each participant authentically and thoughtfully. Think about how you would tell the same story to your grandmother, boss, or best friend. Depending on your listener, you may omit language they would not understand or add context they would find entertaining.

    • 2.2: Gathering Audience Information

      Now, we explore some ways to gather information about your audience. Making accurate predictions can be difficult. Sometimes, less formal research methods can give a better understanding. For example, you may try to get the perspective of those who attended similar presentations, discuss your ideas with coworkers, or talk with speakers who have presented on your topic.

    • 2.3: Choosing the Right Language

      Once you understand your audience, you need to choose the appropriate language to shape your message. You want your language to be inclusive and straightforward. The language you choose can help you connect and engage the listener, but you can also risk alienating participants who misunderstand your words.

    • 2.4: Using Inclusive Language

      Communication is interactive and simultaneous. Many inexperienced presenters make the mistake of talking at, rather than with, their audience. They use phrases like "Today, I will tell you about ..." or "My topic is …"

      You should try to use language that makes your audience feel as if you are having an interactive conversation with them. An easy way to be inclusive and engaging is to use first-person plural (us and we) rather than first-person singular (I). You can also use inclusive phrases like "let's talk about X" or "once we understand X, Y seems a lot more important".

    • 2.5: Using Simple Language

      How will your audience understand, react to, and receive your ideas? Keeping your language clear and simple makes it easier for listeners to understand your thesis statement, main points, sub-points, supporting evidence, and to follow your general thought process.

      While readers can slow down, re-read a passage, or look up words they do not understand, presentation audiences have fewer tools at their disposal. Always keep the background of your audience in mind and tailor the complexity of the language you use to them.

      For example, it is appropriate to use scientific terms or legal acronyms when presenting to a group of medical doctors or legal scholars. However, you should use less scientific or legal jargon when you present to a group that lacks the background and knowledge to understand you.

      In general, speak at a slightly lower level of complexity than what you would use to write an article or paper for the same audience. This can be tricky since using language that is too complex can leave your audience members frustrated and confused. Using language that is too simple can be perceived as insulting, condescending, or boring.