A few weeks ago, I sat down to cast my vote for the president, as well as Florida’s proposed amendments. I got about a third of the way through one of the amendments, until I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had just read. I re-read it, over and over again. I found myself wondering if I were the only one or if everyone was having trouble understanding clearly what was being said. As I sat there, I immediately thought of the number one rule for any type of communication: Adopting and creating an audience-centered approach.
When expecting someone to understand you, or in this case, make an informed and confident decision, the first step is creating audience-specific content. This allows the reader to be able to relate to, remain interested in, and easily understand the information. I immediately thought if these proposed amendments were aimed at the general public, why did they have to be written in such a confusing and complicated way. In my opinion, they were not at all audience-friendly.
One of the most important things to do as a writer, despite the topic, is adapting an audience-centered approach. But how do you do that? There are several different aspects to keep in mind when creating a piece of work tailored to an audience.
Before you can adapt to the audience, you need to:
Know who your audience is. You may want to ask yourself: What information are they looking for? What do they already know about the topic? What are they hoping to gain out of this information? The answers to these questions will ultimately help in tailoring the message to meet their interests and needs.
Adapting to Different Situations:
There may be different situations in which you have to alter your communication to be audience specific. Whether you are creating a business message, delivering a presentation, or even blogging, different situations require some sort of adaptation.
Creating Business Messages:
When creating a business message, it may be important to remember to gain a sense of the audience’s level of understanding. This may require you to think more carefully in your choice of words, in order to make the audience be able to better relate to you. If the level of understand varies among everyone in the audience, it may be more difficult to relate to everyone. However, the most important people to gain the interest and attention of, is the more influential, higher up decision makers. So you may want to spend a little extra time tailoring and meeting the needs of these select few audience members.
When delivering a presentation, adapting to an audience-specific style, is still an important thing to remember. The size of the audience can be an indicator on just how you should adapt. Generally a larger audience entails a more formal presentation, and may even mean a higher expectation of the presenter and their knowledge of the topic. (Make sure you know the topic like the back of your hand, especially when it comes to question and answer time!) On the other hand, a smaller audience may be, but not always, be just the opposite. It may call for a more relaxed environment, with a more conversational tone.
However, just because the audience is small, don’t automatically think your presentation and style of communication is less formal or less important. You must always, always create an audience profile and adapt to the specific audience in any given situation.
Erin Van Etten is a senior at the University of South Florida studying criminal justice and psychology. She also currently works as a Case Manager for the 13th Judicial Administrative Office of the Courts.