Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium like radio, newspapers, television internet and so on.
Effective communication is about knowing your audience.
Unless you’re just talking to yourself, communications is to a large degree what shapes the relationship between the speaker or writer (the messenger) and their audience. When you are the messenger, you are in effect building a relationship with your audience. So it’s worth it to think about who your audience is before setting pen to paper.
Even when the message is the same for people of different ages, incomes, interests, races, occupations, and such, you still often have to say it in different ways to get noticed by all the sub-groups within the larger population. You might also have to use different language, especially jargon or slang, or examples to emphasize that portion of the complete message that is of most interest or urgency for the various sub-groups.
As you develop a better understanding of your different audiences, tailor your messaging for each one. Think about what motivates them. And ask lots of questions:
• What kind of background do they have?
• Are they well educated?
• Do they know more or less about the subject than you do?
• What do they identify with? And many more.
Once you have a good understanding of your audiences, it’s easier to be strategic and clear about the purpose behind your communications, the key messages you need to deliver, and the channels that will get your message across best.
This is how to ensure that you tailor your message, cut through the noise, and keep your audience engaged with what you’re telling them; no matter who or where they are.
1. Know What Your Audience Cares About
Your audience won’t care about what you say until you have demonstrated that you care about them. As you plan your presentation, ask what are the challenges and needs of your expected audience? What are the three to four main questions or issues on their minds about your topic?
If you don’t know, ask a few people who will attend your presentation, ask the manager of the department. Then start your presentation by reminding your audience of their identified concerns.
For example; The “OBULAMU” campaign by Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) executed in 2015; specifically addresses young adults in relationships, persons living with HIV and other key populations ages 18–30. It aimed at improving the knowledge, motivation and risk perception, skills, norms and supportive environment of young adults in relationships so they can adopt relevant health behaviors on condom use, HIV testing and counseling.
When you talk first about your audience and their problems and needs that you will address in your talk, you demonstrate that you care about them. That makes people want to listen.
2. Map Out Your Main Points for Your Audience
Once you know your audience and their level of understanding, you can tailor your content to match. Tailoring the message requires audience research. This includes reviewing the information you already have about your audience or audiences, and possibly gathering more about whatever group you are trying to reach. This research should include an analysis of their levels of understanding about whatever it is you need them to be informed about, and any relevant physical, behavioral, demographic, and psychographic characteristics they might possess.
Here are the basic questions that apply to all types of audience research. You have to learn:
• What the target audience already knows about your topic,
• What rumors, myths, and misinformation exist about the topic?
• How audience members feel about the topic.
• What questions and information gaps exist?
This research also can also help you define any specific ethnic, cultural, and lifestyle preferences of your audience.
In conducting target audience research, the first task is to check existing sources of information. Some of this will very likely come from your own organizational records. These can include market share analysis, buying and spending patterns, and sale figures for specific models. Other information sources include library databases, government statistics, market research data, and results from polling organizations.
Here is a basic checklist of the sorts of information you might need about your target audience, the specific groups that you are trying to reach.
This is only a guide. All of this might not apply, and you might have some categories that are not covered here:
• Marital status;
• Number of children;
• Gender; among others.
3. Tell Stories and Use Examples Your Audience Will Find Relatable.
The next step in audience analysis is to define their expectations. What is their goal for being there? What specifically do they want to get out of your speech or presentation? A key question is: Are they open to new ideas?
Next, you need to think about your audience’s disposition toward your topic. Are they interested in it? What do they know about it? What attitudes do they hold that might create resistance to proposals in your presentation? What ideas and examples might your audience identify with?
Another aspect of audience analysis is to ask: What is their perception of you? Do they think you are interested in them? What do they believe you have in common with them? Do you speak the same “language,” including jargon? Do they see you as credible? Do they believe you are qualified to talk to them? Why do they think you are speaking to them?
What do you and your audience have in common? How are you different? Is there any significant common ground existing between you and them that you can build upon? Are you viewed as having any special commitment to this subject or proposal? How will you demonstrate your commitment to the audience?
Ask yourself how your audience sees the occasion. Is your message consistent with what the audience expects on this occasion? Is your message appropriate for the occasion?
4. Show, Don’t Just Tell Your Audience
Different audiences will respond to different approaches. A scientific audience may be more interested in the detail and appreciate graphs and diagrams.
Business, management and policy audiences may want concise presentations that focus on the implications and the triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental costs/benefits).
Industry audiences may prefer plenty of examples and opportunities to ask questions. Decide in advance the content, style and visuals that will best connect with your audience.
Use visual aids that add impact or help you to explain something. Consider visual aids other than PowerPoint slides, such as enlarged photos, objects, examples, equipment and demonstrations.
If you must use PowerPoint, it should be for the audience’s benefit, rather than acting as your speech notes. As a general rule, keep text to concise main points only. Some audiences, especially those with a different first language to you, may appreciate more extensive written slides
5. Customize and Improvise by Knowing Your Audience
Once you know your audience and their level of understanding, you can tailor your content to match. For example; “OBULAMU” Community Shows targeted specific audiences and areas where partners are experiencing low uptake of services, especially those where they scheduled outreaches to provide particular services.
The edutainment based shows were designed to improve information/ knowledge, motivation/risk perception, skills, norms and supportive environment to adopt relevant health actions like condom use, HIV testing among others.
Once you have created a good presentation that visually supports your main message, you have the freedom to tailor it to each audience you serve.
You can make your point and then ask out loud, “So why should you care about this?” and tailor your answer to the audience that is in front of you. What your communication team members care about may be very different from your audience’s needs. When the messages were supported by simple images and delivered by a focused presenter who could make clear points and connect them to the daily life of their audience, communication occurred.