Six Minutes to the Rescue: Audience Analysis 101

Six Minutes Audience Analysis Post.001

For the past few weeks, I’ve been revamping my lectures in preparation for my first on campus class since November. In preparation for that, I blogged a bit about one of the areas of public speaking most often brushed over by presenters-audience analysis and audience segmentation. While students and presenters have a plethora of resources available to them, and we use Nancy Duarte’s Audience Needs Map in class as well as her audience questions in Resonate, it’s always wonderful to find succinct yet comprehensive resources that are full of practical tools and application. One of the best resources out there that fits these criteria is Six Minutes, curated, edited, and written by Andrew Dlugan. I have turned to Six Minutes for their “how to” guide on rhetoric in developing my presentations and in teaching my students how to develop theirs. Now, I can add his wonderfully practical series on audience analysis to the resources I provide to students and presenters.

Thoughtful audience analysis is one of the best habits you can develop as a speaker. It will help you understand your audience’s perspective and provide maximum value for them. If done well, your audience analysis will provide insights that will help you focus your message, select the most effective content and visuals, and tailor your delivery to suit this particular target audience. –Andrew Dlugan, Six Minutes

Dlugan begins his series with an introduction to audience analysis and follows it up with an article explaining how to conduct it. He then turns his focus to how one can use the data gathered in the audience analysis process to improve one’s speech. Through in-depth audience analysis, one can design an entire presentation that is goes beyond connection and actually reaches resonance. By creating a presentation for the audience (dress, presentation format, supporting points, vocabulary/language, etc.), speaker can move closer to true identification. As rhetorician Kenneth Burke asserted, when an audience can sense analogy or similarity with the audience, the audience is more likely to be persuaded by the speaker’s argument.

Dlugan’s latest offering in the series is an Audience Analysis Worksheet. I, like Dlugan, appreciate the worksheet, checklist, and storyboard template–anything that helps presenters delve further into those often ignored parts of our presentation. A worksheet can “help focus your energy and make a seemingly complex task simple to perform” (Dlugan 2013). So, in the case of audience analysis, which one can talk about ad nauseum but never actually practice or conduct, a worksheet can help turn a theoretical best practice of public speaking into an actionable task whose data is now easier to analyze and apply. I’ll be adding this eries to the list of resources I draw from in preparing lectures and can’t wait to engage in some audience analysis in class using Dlugan’s worksheet. Check out the entire series on audience analysis at Six Minutes!

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On a side note: I’d like to thank Andrew for giving me the opportunity to guest write for Six Minutes in 2012. Andrew is a wonderful editor and pushed me to get out of my analytical zone when writing. Thanks Andrew and thanks Six Minutes!

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