Audience Adaptation | communication Department (2023)


Audience analysis involves identifying the audience and tailoring a speech to their interests, understanding, attitudes, and beliefs. An audience-centric approach is important as a speaker's effectiveness is enhanced when the presentation is properly created and delivered. Audience identification through extensive research is often difficult, so audience adaptation often depends on the healthy use of the imagination.
As with many valuable tools, audience analysis can be overused. Tailoring a speech for an audience is not the same as simply telling an audience what they want to hear. Audience analysis does not mean "arrogance" or "bowing" in front of an audience. Rather, adaptation guides the stylistic and content choices a speaker makes for a presentation. Adapting to audiences often involves walking a very fine line between over-adapting and under-adapting—a distinction best recognized by understanding the general components of the skill.

Factors in the target group analysis

audience expectations

When people become listeners in a speaking situation, they bring with them expectations of the occasion, the topic, and the speaker. Violating audience expectations can negatively impact the effectiveness of the speech. Imagine a local politician is invited to speak at the memorial service for a beloved former mayor. The public expects the politician's speech to praise the life and career of the deceased. If the politician took the opportunity to debate a bill, the public would likely be offended and the speaker would lose credibility. Of course, there can be situations where violating audience expectations would be an effective strategy. Moderators making political statements at the Oscars do so precisely because the mismatch of the message with the occasion amplifies the proclamation's impact.


The audience's knowledge of a topic can vary widely at any given time, so communicators need to find out what their audience already knows about the topic. Never overestimate the audience's knowledge of a topic. If a speaker starts a technical discussion about genetic engineering, but the audience is not familiar with basic genetics, they will not be able to follow their presentation and quickly lose interest. On the other hand, a drastic underestimation of the audience's knowledge can make a speech sound condescending. Try to do some research to find out what the audience already knows about the topic. A brief repetition of key terms and concepts is almost always appropriate and can sometimes be done with due regard for the diverse audience and the importance of "getting everyone on the same page". , a brief repetition of important terms and concepts at the beginning of a speech, refreshes memories without being patronizing.

attitude to the topic

Knowing the audience's attitude toward a topic helps the speaker determine the best way to achieve their goals. Imagine a moderator trying to convince the community to build a park. A speaker would probably spend most of the speech explaining why a park would benefit the community. However, if they learn in advance that while most neighbors think the park is a good idea but have concerns about safety, the speaker might take the time to show them that park users would be safer in the park than they are currently. play in the streets. The persuasiveness of the speech thus addresses the most important obstacle to the construction of a park.

audience size

Many language elements change with the size of the audience. In general, the larger the audience, the more formal the presentation should be. Sitting down and using a common language when speaking to a group of 10 people is usually pretty appropriate. However, this style of presentation would likely be inappropriate or ineffective if you were speaking in front of 1,000 people. With a large audience, you often need to use a microphone and speak from an elevated platform.


Audience demographics include age, gender, religion, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, occupation, education, group membership, and numerous other categories. Since these categories often organize individual identities and experiences, a wise speaker takes care of them. Politicians often pay close attention to demographic factors during election campaigns. When a politician speaks in Day County, Florida (the county with the largest elderly population), they're likely to discuss the issues most relevant to people in that age group — Medicare and Social Security. Communicators should be careful about stereotyping an audience based on demographic information - individuals are always more complicated than a simplistic category of identity. Also, be careful not to indulge solely in demographic interests. For example, seniors are certainly concerned about political issues that go beyond Social Security and Medicare. Using demographic factors to control language production does not mean changing the language target for each different audience; Instead, consider what pieces of information (or types of evidence) are most important to members of different demographic groups.


The setting of a presentation can affect the ability to deliver a speech and the audience's ability and desire to listen. Some of these factors are: room layout (audience size and layout), time of day, temperature, outside noise (lawn mowers, traffic), inside noise (baby crying, dry cough), and type of room (church, classroom, outside). By anticipating the various factors affecting the environment, the speaker can adjust their speech accordingly. Will there be a stage? Will there be a podium or lectern? What technical aids will be available? How are the seats arranged? What is the order of the speakers? While these issues may seem minor compared to the content of the speech and the composition of the audience, this prior knowledge will calm nerves, help establish eye contact and ensure the appropriate technology is available when needed. Consider how the environment affects audience attention and engagement. People are usually tired after a meal and at the end of the day. When a speech is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., a speaker may need to add animation or humor to the speech, show more enthusiasm, or otherwise get the audience to maintain their attention.

voluntary work

Listeners are either voluntary, in which case they are genuinely interested in what the presenter has to say, or involuntary, in which case they are not inherently interested in the presentation. Knowing the difference helps determine how hard a speaker must work to capture audience interest. Involuntary listeners are notoriously difficult to arouse and maintain interest in a topic (think of most people's attitudes towards mandatory classes or meetings they would rather not attend).


Most listeners are self-centered: they are generally more interested in things that directly affect them or their community. An effective speaker must be able to show the audience why the topic they are talking about should be important to them.

Tips for analyzing an audience

Define target group

At most hearings, there will be a mixture of opinions on a given topic. There are usually some people who agree with what a speaker is saying, some who strongly disagree, others who are undecided, and still others who are apathetic. Conventional wisdom holds that a communicator does not need to focus on people who already agree with them, and people who strongly disagree with them are unlikely to be persuaded by a speech. As such, the target audience is usually those people who fall between the two extremes—they should be the speaker's primary concern. When you compose a speech with them in mind, a speaker can make his greatest impact. Conventional wisdom, of course, is just that—conventional. Some speakers are so dynamic (or terrible) that they can change the beliefs of listeners who fall into the undecided category.


Sometimes a presenter can learn about their audience by doing research in the library or on the internet. This can be especially helpful when speaking to members of another organization. For example, if you are asked to speak to the local Sierra Club chapter, visiting their website and discovering the organization's goals and beliefs would reveal the publicly stated goals. Obtaining pamphlets or other literature from the organization or group increases public scrutiny. The person(s) organizing the lecture should at least be able to provide some information about the audience present. Asking them about the audience's expectations of the event, the setting for the speech, and other important questions about the various elements will make audience analysis more productive.

opinion poll

Conducting a poll is one way to discover an audience's values, beliefs, and knowledge. Polls allow a speaker to gather specific information from a large number of people. With pre-speech audience access, a speaker can send short written polls to all listeners. Polls can include open-ended questions (“What do you think about animal testing?”) and closed-ended questions (“Do you agree to animal testing?”). Here are some tips for creating a poll:

  • Keep the survey short. Get the information you need with as few questions as possible.
  • Keep the questions short and focused.
  • Choose the words carefully and ask concise questions.
  • Avoid leading or overloaded questions.


Learning about an audience through interviews is the most useful, but often the least realistic way to understand an audience. Unlike surveys, which can collect information from many people in a short amount of time, interviews are much more time-consuming. Interviewing all members of the public is often impossible or unreasonable. A possible alternative is to interview a representative sample of the public. A representative sample is a small subset of the audience that maintains the demographic proportions of the overall audience. For example, if you are speaking to a group that is 90% female, make sure respondents are also 90% female to create a representative sample.

Memories so good they need to be mentioned twice:

Avoid stereotypes🇧🇷 While a full audience analysis requires considering demographic factors, this analysis does not legitimize stereotypes. Stereotypes are established beliefs or opinions about people in a particular group. Stereotyping overlooks individual differences and often leads people to make decisions based on flawed thinking. The best way to avoid stereotypes is to learn as much as you can about an audience using the techniques above, rather than relying on preconceived notions about an audience.

Don't just tell the audience what they want to hear.🇧🇷 The oldest and most common criticism of rhetoric, especially persuasion, is that it is mere flattery; a way for a lawyer to please an audience. Politicians are often accused of doing just that - changing their stance on an issue to please different audiences they are targeting. To avoid this behavior, plan each speech with a clear goal (e.g., "Educate my audience about online education" or "Convince my audience that my research project is eligible for funding"). This goal should remain constant, regardless of the specific audience being targeted. Audience analysis should be used to find the best available means to achieve this goal. Stay true to that goal, but tailor the speech to the audience.

Analyze the audience further🇧🇷 The target group analysis continues even after you start speaking. As a speaker, pay attention to audience feedback. If a moderator notices that several people seem confused, they may have overestimated the audience's knowledge of the topic. Take the time to clarify terms and provide necessary background information. When an audience seems bored, figure out how to spice up the speech—whether it's more audience engagement or more emotion. The speech has the greatest chance of success when the speaker treats his audience as active participants in the speech process.

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