Great, you have built an audience and are posting away on social media, but do you really know what your audience wants from your content?
Who are you talking to? Essentials for Understanding your Audience
You have a brilliant idea or a business plan, and are ready to give a pitch to make your dreams a reality. Despite your best planning and, what you consider a flawless delivery, your investors are meandering on the brink of no. What happened? How is it that you just couldn’t get them to see that your plan is exactly what they are looking for? Provided that you have done your research, the problem may be less likely your product and more likely that you have underestimated your audience. Vincent Ruggiero, in his book, The Art of Thinking: A Guide to Critical and Creative Thought, outlines several considerations designed to make sure that you understand your audience.
Is Your Audience Likely to Have Been Influenced by Popular Misconceptions?
With the advent of the internet, information is available at the tip of your fingers. While this much information can be extremely helpful, most people understand that we may be just one click away from toxic misconceptions. Consider all the evidence that the earth is round, and then know that some people vehemently deny this and instead claim that the world is flat. If you were giving a presentation that depended on your audience knowing what shape the earth is, and it turned out that you were speaking to a room full of flat-earthers, your idea is likely going to meet harsh criticism. One of the most important steps in understanding your audience is to be aware that, despite how obvious a solution is to you, your audience may be swayed by popular misconceptions and it is your responsibility to know what the popular errors are and to tailor your presentation to address some of the most commonly held misconceptions.
Is Your Audience’s Perspective Likely to Be Narrow?
Misconceptions aside, it is also important to consider the perspective of your audience. If your idea is way out there, you will first need to spend some time bringing your audience up to speed. Pitching an idea that overestimates your audience’s understanding is a critical error. Before you begin your presentation, do your research, understand where your audience is coming from. What have they been receptive to in the past, why have they rejected ideas? If your audience perspective is narrow, consider ways in which you can incrementally widen their understanding. Remember, most people walk before they run so adjust accordingly. If your presentation is too far out of the wheelhouse of your audience you either have the wrong audience or you have to engage them in a way that would extend their perspective.
Is Your Audience Likely to Be Unobservant About Important Considerations?
One of the most frustrating aspects about presenting to an audience is that they just might not have ever considered what you are pitching. For example, before I became a parent, I never once considered how to dispose of dirty diapers so if someone tried to pitch me an expensive garbage can just for diapers I probably would have checked out immediately. However, now that I am elbow-deep in diapers, I welcome any suggestion of how to get rid of them. Knowing the baseline of your audience is crucial. You can have the most cutting edge, necessary, thought provoking product of all time but if your audience has never once considered that they need it, you could lose them. Obviously you cannot read your audience’s mind, and luckily you do not have to; rather, your job is to mentally teleport them to a situation in which they can understand the need for your solution. Once you are on the same page as your audience, it will be easier to convince them of the need for your product.
Is Your Audience’s Understanding of the Problem or Issue Likely to Be as Clear as Yours?
Before you present your pitch to your audience you have likely been working on it for quite some time. There may have even been times where you lived and breathed your idea. You are the expert, you have considered every possible solution and landed on yours as the best, you know the ins and outs better than anybody, including your audience. Overestimating your audience’s understanding of the problem can destroy your potential solution. If you do not accurately express the problem or issue you are trying to address, your audience may drift off course, or worse, suggest alternatives contrary to your pitch. Remember, your audience will lean towards the easiest, most cost effective solution so if you do not set up an explanation of what the exact problem is, they may misinterpret and be left wondering why you are working so hard when a more simple solution would work.
Is Your Audience Likely to Be Familiar with the Facts You Found in Your Investigation?
This is an important and often neglected aspect of knowing your audience. Before you present your idea, take a step back and ask yourself if your background information needs more attention. Remember, you are involved in an intimate relationship with your idea, your data, and your overall pitch. Your audience, while they may have a cursory understanding of the facts, may not be. Make sure that you are presenting real, unbiased, information that will never leave your audience wondering if what you are saying is true. It is your job, as a presenter, to give the audience everything they need to know in order to make an informed decision. Do not assume that your audience is as familiar with the facts as you are, but avoid giving too much basic information. You want your audience to learn new facts, not just hammer home what they already know.
Understanding your audience is like a delicate dance; you must move gracefully and avoid stepping on anyones toes. Knowing your audience, their level of understanding, and their commitment to the idea you are presenting gives you an edge to cater your presentation to meet their needs.