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Created :
October 19, 2022
|Updated :
July 25, 2023
Written By :
Varshit Dusad

What is Audience Analysis, and how to nail it?

Table of Contents
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    “Raise your hands if you want to join Goldman Sachs after completing your degree”

    - A recruiter from Goldman Sachs (GS) to a room full of IITians.

    But, not a single person raised their hand. I was there. I didn’t raise my hand as well…

    Why?

    Because the recruiter bored everyone SO Much that a room full of IITians didn’t feel motivated to raise their hand to show they wanted to join Goldman Sachs.

    This is shocking because GS loves hiring IITians, and IITians love working for GS.

    So how did this GS recruiter manage to kill the motivation of 300 IITians to join the world’s most popular “Investment Bank”?

    By being completely out of touch with his audience.

    The recruiter gave a 40-minute long presentation during which he cited the reasons he loves to work at GS as:

    • He gets to do meaningful work
    • He enjoys working with his talented colleagues
    • He loves the “Tree Plantation Drive” by GS every year.
    • And many more virtue-signaling reasons.

    But what did this room full of IITians (including me) thought of working at GS

    • The prestige of working at GS looks great on a resume
    • Compensation paid is top notch
    • You build a great network - and your network is your net worth!
    • and many more materialistic reasons.

    Simply put, the recruiter was out of touch with the expectations of his audience.

    In other words, he failed to do proper Audience Analysis.

    Source: Quora

    What is Audience Analysis?

    Audience analysis is doing research to understand who your audience is and what matters to them. Ask yourself before you speak - what they are looking forward to learning from your presentation.

    What are their

    • Characteristics?
    • Preferences?
    • Interests?
    • Needs?
    PS, the recruiter did have a happy ending. Despite the boring response to the presentation, nearly 1000 students of my batch, including me, applied to work for GS.Once again - IITians love working for GS!

    Why is Audience Analysis important?

    💡 Also read: 5 Benefits of Audience Analysis in Public Speaking

    Avoid Miscommunication

    Audience analysis is necessary because it makes communication simple and easy.

    Without it, you might misinterpret your audience's needs. And then, you will deliver a message that doesn't answer their questions.

    This can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations.

    For example, if you are presenting your analytical reports to the executive team, then you need to ensure you focus on the following:

    • Results NOT Methods
    • KPIs NOT Metrics
    • Insights NOT Data

    Meet Expectations

    If you cannot meet the audience’s expectations, what’s the point of your speech?

    And, when you fail the audience’s expectations, you will hurt your reputation.

    Remember, the moment you start your speech, you begin a relationship with your audience.

    And the quality of this relationship determines how willingly they will listen to you.

    When you alienate your audience, they will stop listening.They will refuse to hear you. They will ignore how important is the information you are sharing.They might even become hostile.

    If you have ever wondered, “Why must a public speaker be audience-centered?

    Because people dislike speakers who do not align with their expectations.

    Improves Clarity

    Audience analysis allows us to be clear.

    When you use language that is familiar to your audience, your message becomes clear and easy.

    And when you are clear, you sound bold and decisive.Like I always say - clarity is the most important aspect of communication.

    Increases Impact

    Audience analysis prompts you to consider how your audience will respond to your message.

    For example, you should select a topic that is relevant and useful to them.You can choose to go controversial.But be considerate of your audience’s diversity of opinions.

    By understanding your audience's concerns, desires, and pain points, you can tailor your arguments to be more persuasive and address their specific needs effectively.

    And this is why it is important for a speaker to know the audience

    People have a wide variety of reasons for making the choices they make.

    For example, a junior employee may not value a course on improving Communication Skills.But, a senior employee who might have been denied promotions will gladly pay a hefty amount to improve their Soft Skills.

    Remember, a well-tailored speech just fits. And that makes it more impactful.

    Builds Rapport

    When you know your audience's demographics, interests, and cultural background, you establish a connection with them.

    The more you know about your audience, the more you can adapt your message to their interests, values, and beliefs.

    Source: Linkedin

    If you ask these questions, it can make your speech more persuasive and build better rapport with your audience.

    • What do you and your audience have in common?
    • Conversely, what makes you different from them?
    • Can you give share ideas or relatable examples to your audience?

    Please remember different audiences have different levels of knowledge and expertise on a subject.

    Analyzing your audience allows you to adjust the complexity of your content to match their understanding.

    This avoids either overwhelming them with jargon or patronizing them with simplistic explanations.

    Increases Engagement

    Analyzing your audience also allows you to tailor your message to resonate with their interests, beliefs, and values.

    You can use relatable examples, anecdotes, and references.

    It will capture their attention and keep them engaged throughout.

    This personalization increases the chances of your message being well-received and understood.

    Source: Linkedin

    Boosts Credibility

    You need to acknowledge your audience, their beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes.

    Your audience needs to feel that, as a speaker, you are honest, knowledgeable, and rightly motivated.

    They are always wondering if you have any hidden motives.

    In their minds, they will be asking questions such as:

    • Did you put any effort into learning who they are? What value can you offer to them in your speech?
    • Do you respect their identity?
    • Do you care enough about their needs and interests?
    • Is your topic relevant to them?
    • Is your approach honest and sensitive to their preexisting beliefs?

    Demonstrating an understanding of your audience's needs and concerns increases your credibility.

    People are more likely to trust and respect a speaker or communicator who takes the time to know and address their specific interests.

    Avoids Stereotyping

    Audience analysis allows us to avoid stereotyping. Some common examples of stereotyping are:

    • All software engineers are poor at soft skills.
    • If you don’t go to English medium schools, you will never be able to communicate in English.

    But, even when an audience appears to be homogeneous, every listener will interpret your words differently.

    Because your audience will always be diverse. Period!

    Remember, diversity is not just religion, race, or ethnic based.Your audiences will be diverse in many other ways. These could be:

    • Gender
    • Age
    • Location
    • Wealth
    • Knowledge
    • Thought process and beliefs → This is one of the most ignored.

      Everyone has their own frame of reference—their unique set of perspectives, experience, knowledge, and values.

      So don’t assume if you are talking to MBAs, they will only be interested in increasing short-term quarterly profits.They might actually be interested in improving corporate governance for long-term growth.

      Audience Analysis
      is important when preparing speeches.

    6 Types of Audience Analysis

    💡 Also read: 5 Benefits of Audience Analysis in Public Speaking
    1. Demographic Audience Analysis - Gather information about your audience's
      - Age
      - Gender
      - Education Level
      - Income
      - Occupation, and
      - Location
    2. Psychographic Audience Analysis involves understanding your audience's attitudes, beliefs, values, interests, and lifestyle.Psychographic details help you connect with your audience on a deeper level. It makes your message more relevant to their lives.
    3. Situational Audience Analysis involves understanding the context of the presentation. For example, the physical location, the time constraints, and the agenda.
    4. Cultural Audience Analysis - Understanding your audience's cultural background. What are their values, customs, and communication styles? Knowing your cultural background helps you avoid cultural misunderstandings and communicate effectively.
    5. Expertise Audience Analysis - Understanding your audience's current level of knowledge on your topic. This helps you craft your message to their level of understanding. And avoid talking over their heads or oversimplifying the information.
    6. Communication Preference Audience Analysis - Understanding your audience's communication preferences. What is their preferred tone, language, and level of formality?This helps you choose the appropriate tone, language, and vocabulary for your message.

    How to conduct a successful Audience Analysis?

    Audience analysis is a dedicated science.

    Performing an audience analysis requires certain steps to ensure you're capturing the right information.

    But how do you go about finding this information?

    Here are the steps to performing a thorough audience analysis:

    1. Direct Observation

    Do you want to learn more about people? Observe them.You will learn a great deal.How do members of your audience greet each other? Is it with a handshake, a hug, a smile, or a nod?

    You can even find out the issues that concern your audience.Are they worried about a potential new wave of layoffs coming?Or are they more interested in upskilling themselves on new career trends?

    To sway an audience you must watch them as you speak - Arthur C. Kent Wright

    2. Interviews and Surveys

    An interview is a direct exchange where you ask questions to your audience members. You can conduct them face-to-face, by phone, or on a Zoom video call.

    Whereas a survey is a set of questions shared with many respondents.

    Interviews can be better than surveys because they allow more detailed discussion.You can ask follow-up questions and dig deeper into the reasonings of your audience.

    But then, interviews are also more time-consuming to conduct than surveys.

    The survey also provides the advantage of keeping respondents anonymous.This can increase your audience members’ willingness to participate. They might even answer personal questions.

    Some useful tips that you should consider when doing an audience analysis using interviews and surveys:

    • Ask questions that are directly related to your topic.
      - Don’t dive into irrelevant details.
      - If you are interested in knowing the reasons for project delays, don’t ask about job satisfaction.
    • Use a standard set of questions.If you phrase the questions differently for different interviewees, you will be comparing “mangoes and bananas.”
    • Keep interviews and surveys short. People hate answering long interviews and surveys.
    • Tell them the purpose of the interview or survey. Without a why, you will find most people would simply decline your request.
    • Make sure their participation is voluntary.
    • Collect sizeable data. Don’t rely on just a few respondents. Otherwise, you will be blinded by confirmation bias.

    An important note about interviews and surveys.

    People Lie!

    Why?

    It’s just a human tendency. People don’t want other people to know their private thoughts if they are not socially acceptable.

    This widely recognized weakness of interviews and survey research is known as socially desirable responding.

    According to Marketing professor Ashok Lalwani, people do this in 2 ways:

    1. Intentionally portraying oneself in a better light.
    2. Exaggerating one’s good qualities.

    So how can you reduce socially desirable responses?

    Marketing consultant Terry Vavra suggests,

    One should never ask what one can’t logically expect respondents to honestly reveal

    For example, if you want to learn more about the reasons for high resignation in your company, don’t ask:

    “Are you unhappy with our company?”Instead, ask:”What would you like to look forward to when you come to work every day?”

    3. Focus Groups

    A focus group is a small group of people who give you feedback about their perceptions.

    You should use a limited list of carefully prepared questions designed to discover the information you need.

    But in a focus group, you will have to moderate the discussion to free flow of ideas. You will have to ensure that the group remains focused on the questions.

    Also, all voices should be represented. The loudmouths should not dominate. As they can skew the observations and hence the results.

    Always be receptive to what people say.It may not always conform to what you expected.

    But the purpose of your audience analysis is to understand your audience group members’ beliefs, attitudes, and values about your topic, not to validate your assumptions.

    4. Using Existing Data about Your Audience

    Occasionally, existing information will be available about your audience.

    You might be able to pull relevant data published by the government -population, literacy levels, and much demographic information are available.

    That said, the information provided by the government may not necessarily reflect your audience composition always.

    Apart from the government, there are many other sources:

    • Academics regularly conduct research and publish their results. You can find the relevant researchers using google scholar.PS, note while it will be easy to find relevant papers, the journals publishing them can charge massive amounts of money.
    • Many NGOs regularly conduct surveys about their topic of interest and publish them.Examples - Toastmasters International and Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • There are several data collection companies that specialize in conducting surveys and selling this information. Examples - Statista and Glassdoor.PS, these data vendors can be very expensive.
    • You can always ask the event organizer about the audience. If you are presenting to a society, club, or institution - they will always have important demographic information.
    Communicators most often perform their jobs with little or no knowledge about their audience
    - David L. Carson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
    Source: LinkedIn

    As a speaker and presenter, it is your job to show your audience how the message will benefit them.

    5. Just ask the audience on stage

    If you were unable to get the necessary data about the audience before your speech, then you can simply ask the audience from the stage.

    But please never underestimate the importance of the audience in any presentation.

    For example, assume you are giving a speech on “How to improve Sales?”.And you want to understand how many people are struggling with hitting their sales targets?You can simply ask for a show of hands, and the audience would respond by raising up their hands.

    You can use this information to support your arguments or adjust them.If the majority of your audience is hitting their sales target, but they are unhappy with the time and energy it takes, then you would need to skip talking about how to make sales and talk about how to scale the sales process.

    The simplest way is just to ask for a show of hands.

    But you can always use tools such as Mentimeter and Google Forms.

    If you are conducting a virtual session on Zoom - then it has an in-built option to take polls.

    Remember that no presentation is a monologue. The role of the audience in a presentation is critical, always!

    💡 Also read A Complete Guide to Master Virtual Meetings: Tips for Effective Online Communication!

    What questions to ask about your audience?

    Here is a list of 20 questions

    (Sourced from Washington University, Refined)

    Demographic Analysis

    1. What does my audience have in common?
    2. What are the differences in my audience?
    3. What is the average age? What range of ages is represented?
    4. Where do they fit in society's social and economic status?
    5. What occupations are represented in my audience?
    6. What are their political and religious affiliations?
    7. What ethnic, racial, and cultural groups are represented?
    8. How similar am I to my audience?
    9. What might my audience expect from my presentation?
    10. What will be the venue and the size of my audience?
    11. What might be my audience's attitudes toward me and my topic?
    12. What concerns or problems do they have?
    13. What interests and goals do they have?
    14. What will motivate them? What are their pain points?
    15. What preconceived ideas might my audience have about me and my topic?
    16. How much does my audience already know about my topic? And what they might not know?
    17. What can I inform my audience that they do not already know?
    18. How would they benefit from my information? How could they use this new information?
    19. How complex should my presentation be?Will I be talking over their heads? Or will they be offended by it being too simple?
    20. What questions might they have about my topic?

    How To Use Audience Analysis?

    A good audience analysis takes time, planning, preparation, implementation, and processing.When you do it well, you will gather insights that will boost your engagement by 10 times with your audience.

    Professional speakers, corporate executives, political candidates, sales associates, and entertainers all rely on audience analysis.

    For example, at the workplace, your one target audience might be C-suite executives concerned about hitting the quarterly growth goals.Your other target audience might be junior employees wondering what their career trajectory should look like.

    Here is the process you should follow to generate insights from your audience analysis:

    1. Collect results: Gather all of your results and determine how you want to analyze them, including what information you're looking for and whether the sample size was large enough. From there, you can adjust the analysis to include more people or focus on a different demographic before moving on to the analysis phase. You can also create a bulleted list of information you hope to learn from the analysis early in the process to serve as a reference.

    2. Choose your analysis tools: The next step in the process is to pick your analysis tools.Consider how you can analyze your audience. How can you read the results of your analysis? In most circumstances, a google forms + google sheets combination should suffice.Alternatively, you can use MS Excel (Windows) or Numbers (Mac).

    If you are using a dedicated survey tool such as SurveyMonkey, then they will provide built-in features for analytics.

    3. Analyze your results

    Using the information you collected, you can look for patterns.Are there certain behaviors or trends?Can you conclude what will create an emotional connection with the audience using those trends?You can leverage that information to create better presentations and more engaging content.If you feel more data collection is necessary, then you can allocate resources to perform another interview or survey.

    When you are analyzing your results, consider the following:

    • If you met your initial analysis goals
    • If your tools must change for the next analysis.
    • If you better understand audience demographics
    • If you understand the audience's pain points
    • If you can meet the audience's expectations.

    4. Select the priority audience and characteristics: The priority audience is who you absolutely need to focus on.For example, if you are giving a speech to an older woman about the potential risks of breast cancer, you narrow it down to women above the age of 40.Or if you are going to present your project timeline to your client, then focus on the Gantt charts and potential reasons for the delay.Not the underlying technologies involved.

    5. Prepare a speech with Your Audience in Mind.

    After compiling results, you should refine your content for your specific audience.

    How can you refine your content? Here is how:

    • Remove content that your audience feels negative about. You don’t want your audience to be critical of you before you even open your mouth.
    • Focus on making the content both interesting as well as beneficial.
    • Clarity, clarity, clarity. Edit your speech as many times as it takes until it becomes simple and clear enough for a fifth grader to understand. After all, Clarity is the #1 component of communication.Don’t use idioms and jargons your audience may not know. For example, your management team will not automatically understand the abbreviation of analytics metrics such as CTR, CPC, etc.You will have to simplify it for them to make it clear.
    • If you know your audience is serious, you could use humor for a change.
    • If your audience is young students, you could raise your voice to bring energy to the room.
      You could pose some questions and ask for a show of hands to increase engagement.

    6. Assess your topics (are they sensitive or controversial?): You should not try to be insensitive to different cultures and sensitivities.For example, talking about the tax contribution of marginalized sections of society may not be well-received. They might argue that they pay GST, even if they do not pay income tax.

    7. Assess your audience expertise: Is your audience educated enough to listen to your advice and take some measurable actions on it?For example, a person living on less than one lakh rupees a year would not invest a fourth of his monthly income in mutual funds.You may as well be talking to the walls as you may be talking to the people out there.

    8. Assess the size and demographics: We have a different tone and pitch when we talk to a group of adults compared to a group of elderly.You should also note the distribution of the genders in the communication process and how they would react to a certain situation.For example, if you say that women are bad drivers, it might attract some sharp criticism from the female members of the audience.

    9. Assess the medium of communication (language and backdrop): Should you maintain a personal or friendly tone or go authoritative from the word go? It depends on the situation you are in.If you are in an official space, you should do well with a mix of both. You may maintain a subclass here- if you are talking to your juniors, you should stay authoritative.If you are talking to your seniors, it would be better to stay less aggressive.

    10. Identify your prospective audience’s likes and dislikes: Identify your audience’s likes and interests.You can create an ideal persona to get a better idea to visualize their needs and requirements.After that, you can narrow down by specific factors or demographics to appeal to a more niche group.

    11. Assess the logistics (acoustics and visibility):
    No point in speaking if you can’t even be heard or seen.
    Despite checking all the boxes above, the speaker can still be disliked.
    This is because of the poor logistics at the venue.
    Unorganized placement of the furniture, AC vents, and poor microphones.
    It may also be due to internal or external variables like babies wailing or traffic noises.
    You should check if you can make any changes to your surroundings before speaking.

    Conclusion

    You communicate with other people. So in order to be effective, you need to adapt to your audience.

    So don’t underestimate the importance of audience analysis in any form of public speaking, presentation, or communication.

    It’s important to identify the demographic composition (age, sex, religion, etc.) of your audience. As well as their pre-existing beliefs and their attitude toward your topic.

    Audience analysis in the presentation will help you to develop a presentation that will build a connection with your audience.

    You now know how to conduct audience analysis using interviews, surveys, pre-existing publications, or focus groups.

    Once you conduct the analysis, focus on generating the insights which you could use to adjust your presentation.

    You will notice a remarkable difference in audience reaction with and without audience analysis.

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