Presentational Skills
Credit: Opensource

Before writing a document or planning to speak in front of a group or organization, there are some basic questions you need to ask.

What are the most important characteristics of an audience? Is the audience technically inclined or not? What are the personality types within the audience? 

Why go through the trouble of analyzing your audience before you produce content?

When you know your audience, you are able to understand the context of the social situation for which you are writing. This type of audience analysis allows the writer to learn about the people he or she is writing to or speaking with.

Defining the background of the audience assists you in determining what information is already understood and what information needs to be included so that you do not waste anyone’s time.

Based on what is discovered in audience analysis, a writer can adjust their work to make it more meaningful to that specific group.[1] You will need to add more information so that the audience can understand and reach the conclusion that your document intends.

As a writer, your goal in writing anything is a combination of informing, motivating and exciting an audience. Therefore, analyzing those people to which you are writing for can determine the best tone, style and delivery to use when writing to that specific group of people as well as enhance your presentational skills.

Effective Writing

What is the Skill Level of the Audience

Who is the audience? If there is more than one type audience for your document or speech that will be viewing your work at once, you have two options. You can write sections that are relevant to the various audience types individually, or write in one particular generic style that will apply across the board.

Similarly, if there is a combination of technical and non-technical people, or novice or expert members in the audience, the rule of thumb is to write to the majority of the people that will be reading the document.[2]

However, if you have the option, it is best to gear your words toward individual audience types in multiple documents. For instance, if you are writing a product or user guide, you could create a version for basic users or for administrators or managers.  

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Effective Writing

What does your audience look like?

Demographics such as age, education level, regional locations, gender and politics can play a big role in the style and direction of your document or speech.

For instance, if you are writing a product manual or proposal request for a regional company from the New England area, you do not want to include cultural references or lingo from the southern parts of the United States. The language and references used in Vermont and Maine are worlds apart from what is used in Alabama or Mississippi. 

It is also important to pay close attention to all of those characteristics in order to avoid any potential offensive topics or references that would not be appropriate for the audience.[1] People from different regions of the country react differently to certain topics, so be careful when you are employing humor before a group of people in a meeting or speech.

Effective Writing

What is their stake in the issue?

Audience Analysis
Credit: Opensource

After you determine who is the audience, think about the reason why what you are saying is going to be important to them. Once you determine that, focus on that issue to keep them engaged and do not stray off topic.

Next ask yourself, what does a particular audience need to hear on the topic based on their stake in the issue. Why are they even there? Why are they reading your document? Once you know the answer to that question, stick to that answer.  All of your points should be related to the issues the audience cares about.

Audience Analysis Example

For example, if you are creating a user guide for a new software enhancement, the people that will be reading the document want to know what has changed and what they need to do now to make it work. So break your steps and processes down to cover those new items in the enhancement. There is no need to talk about how the system used to work. They know how it used to work. They want to know how it works now.

And assuming your document is going to be used going forward, new people coming into the company do not want to hear about how an old system worked before they even worked there.

Audience Analysis

How will they use the information?

If you are producing a document for a particular group or business, what are they going to do with it? Will it be used for training or a product guide? Are you writing the basis for a Request for Proposal and will the document be considered company policy or a legal document.  Some documents are created in a more formal way, so you need to know who is going to be using it and how they will be using it before you start.

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Audience Analysis

What specific needs or interests do they have?

If you are writing or speaking before a specific trade group or organization, what are their specific needs or interests that they want to learn about.  Getting a grasp on this aspect is a good way to manage the expectations of your audience.  Ask yourself, what do they expect to learn from your writing or your speech? Are they viewing this as a training document or a classroom setting?  Or are you producing a marketing document geared toward consumers. If so, what are their interests in regards to your product? How can you sell it?

Presentational Skills - Audience Analysis

Final Thoughts

Conductin Audience Analysis
Credit: Opensource

When writing for or speaking before any audience, it is crucial to analyze their needs to produce content that is useful, relevant and instructional in some way. Whether it is a training document, a user guide, a request for proposal or simply a marketing brochure, you must know how your audience will use what you are creating or talking about.

The way you determine this is by developing a plan before you begin writing and asking specific questions  that will eventually become the outline to what you will be saying or writing.

Afterward, it may be useful to employ an audience analysis survey to determine if you hit the mark.

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