Your Speech Begins before You Hit the Podium

Article excerpt

Most of us have had the experience of listening to a speaker who seemed to be well-prepared and knowledgeable but who somehow never did quite connect with the audience. True connection, you will see, requires knowing your audience. The best way to do this, is by completing an audience analysis.

The art of asking questions

The basis of good audience analysis is in asking very specific, questions about your audience and acquiring this intelligence in two distinct time frames. The first is when you're invited to speak.

The person who invited you is usually the best source of audience background. Let's say that you get a phone call from the program chairperson of your town's Rotary Club inviting you to speak at next month's luncheon. "Feel free to talk about anything," she says. At this point, if you accept the invitation, you begin your analysis.

Eagerly your source will now hand you everything that you need in order to tailor a presentation for this Rotary chapter. Merely by asking you will learn:

* who the members are;

* their occupations;

* the average age, education level, and gender of the group;

* subjects addressed by earlier speakers;

* how "active an audience they are. …