READ: Connecting With Your Audience

1 Analyze your Audience

Analyze Your Audience

The first question you should ask yourself when preparing and delivering any speech is “Who is my audience?” Is it made up of five people or five hundred? Are the people you are speaking to five years old, twenty-five years old, or seventy-five years old? In each situation, you need to analyze the age, culture, demographics, and interests of your audience. You also need to be aware of the audience setting. Are you in a formal seminar room? Are you at a banquet table? Or are you in the locker room? You have to be sure you know to whom you are speaking.

The following elements affect audience analysis:

  1. Time of day
  2. Location of speech
  3. What precedes and follows your speech
  4. Audience expectations
  5. Listener attitudes and perceptions
  6. Collective audience feeling 2

Michael S. Hanna and James W. Gibson, in Public Speaking for Personal Success, give the following advice about how you should treat your audience:

Even though the word audience describes a group, an audience is a collection of individual, unique human beings. Audience members have particular characteristics. They make their own decisions. They want you, as a speaker, to consider their personal opinions and priorities. You cannot and should not treat audience members as if they were all alike. To be successful, you must respect the interests of each individual audience member.

However, you also cannot talk with each of them individually. You must determine which subgroups exist within the audience. After you have identified the subgroups, you can anticipate their probable reaction. The value of audience analysis is that you adapt your materials to your listeners.

To make a connection with your audience, you have to consider how they view you and how they will view your topic. Ask yourself, “How do audience members feel about me? What is their image of me? Do I have credibility?” Then ask yourself, “How do audience members feel about themselves? How much do they know about the topic? Are they prepared to hear controversial subjects? Are they willing to interpret and evaluate the pros and cons and see different sides to the issue?” These are the questions that make a connection between the audience and the speaker.

Walk through the following “Checklist of Audience-Related Factors” from Hanna and Gibson’s Public Speaking for Personal Success. Ask yourself each question with your specific audience, topic, and setting in mind.

Checklist of Audience-Related Factors

How do audience members see you?

  1. Do they think that you are interested in them?
  2. What do they believe you have in common with them?
  3. Do they believe that you are qualified to talk to them?
  4. Why do they think that you are speaking to them?
  5. Do they see you as trustworthy?

How do audience members see themselves?

  1. Are they open to new ideas?
  2. Do they know much about the subject?
  3. Have they had previous experience with this subject?
  4. What kind of attitudes do they have toward this subject?

How do audience members view the occasion?

  1. Will the physical setting help you to reach your goal?
  2. Is your message consistent with what listeners expect on this occasion?


Michael S. Hanna and James W. Gibson, Public Speaking for Personal Success (Madison, WI: Brown and Benchmark, 1995), 95.