Tag Archives: audience analysis

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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Calling your Audience Types to Action

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Last week, I discussed the importance of audience segmentation as a means of persuading the members of your audience to take on your big idea. This week, I want to explore how you can use the research you gleaned during audience segmentation to call your audience types to action. A great presentation ends with a strong call to action–your audience cannot take your idea and spread your message without a clear sense of what you want them to do. In this segment, I’ll be referring to one of my favorite TED talks, LZ Granderson’s “The Myth of the Gay Agenda,” so make sure to watch the talk before moving on!

In the Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Nancy Duarte identifies four types of audiences to leverage in your call to action: Doers, Suppliers, Influencers, and Innovators. 

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Each subgroup in your audience has a different role in supporting your message and helping your idea come to life. Duarte’s suggestion is to focus on one call to action, but one that can incorporate the skills of each of the four groups.

What appeals to each group?

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Doers are the worker bees (Duarte 2012) in the audience. Give them workable solutions and clear steps to follow.

For doers, it’s all about a specific action. Doers are the people in your audience who are best able to spread your idea via a specific and actionable task. In Granderson’s talk he outlines specific actions his audience can take in correcting the problem of inequality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens. At one point in the talk, Granderson displays a map of the United States developed by the Human Rights Campaign showing that it is legal for someone to be fired for their sexual orientation in 29 states. He asks the audience to focus on their state of Michigan, which is not shaded. He repeats this imagery several times. Our actionable point for doers–change those unshaded areas by following the super secret gay agenda aka the Constitution of the United States.

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Whether vegetarian or omnivore, cows were and are my favorite suppliers–a girl cannot live without fromage. The suppliers in your audience have a wealth of resources available. Don’t exploit them or think only in terms of tangible resources.

Suppliers, the folks with the goods and resources to propel your message forward, want to know what tangible resources you need to succeed. Granderson doesn’t ask the suppliers for money or material goods (remember, there is no selling at TED); instead, he asks his audience to donate time, effort, and respect to the cause of catching America up to the Constitution.

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Just as a strong flock follows a strong leader, others are led to take on your idea by the influencers in your audience. Change the influencer’s perception via your call to action by spinning a new perspective on an already existing problem.

Influencers help change the perceptions of others. Their status as leaders helps them mobilize others to your cause. If you can inspire an influencer, you’ve made a cheerleader for life.

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Chimpanzees have the amazing ability, like other animals, to use tools to better the daily processes of their lives.  Innovators are persuaded by the ingenious applicability of your big idea. Harness that in your closing.

Innovators are those who can use their already existing abilities to help you grow your idea (perhaps saving it, improving it, or enriching it). Innovators thrive when the call to action gives them a problem to solve through big ideas.

Granderson is in a room full of influencers and innovators–TEDsters are leaders in their industries and communities–they belong to an organization whose mission is to spread ideas. The majority of Granderson’s talk, it seems to me, is for these two final groups. He asks the audience to recall the past–when entire groups of people were treated based on what they were, not who they were, when our country systematically denied unalienable rights to its citizens for no justifiable reason. He juxtaposes the solutions we found to those problems with the problem still alive today–discrimination based on sexual orientation–and leaves his innovators and influencers with a simple message:

So when you hear the words “gay lifestyle” and “gay agenda” in the future, I encourage you to do two things: One, remember the U.S. Constitution, and then two, if you wouldn’t mind looking to your left, please. Look to your right. That person next to you is a brother, is a sister. And they should be treated with love and respect. Thank you. (Source)

By blending in actionable elements into your closing that appeal to each of these four groups–those who will work with you, those who will help supply you with needed tools, those who will influence others to join your cause, and those who will help you evolve your idea to further awesomeness–you can help motivate your entire audience to action.

Typefaces used: Edmondsans (James T. Edmondson) and Bebas Neue (Dharma Type)

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Audience Analysis: Segmenting the Audience

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I often reiterate to my students, and we read in the leading texts and blogs on this subject, that audience analysis and adaptation are the cornerstones of a strong presentation. However, many of us present with only our goals and needs (and hangups) in mind, leading to the “self-centered approach” (Duarte, 2010) to presenting.

Have you seen your audiences do this? Has this been you? Self-centered presentations lead to audiences that tune out.

Have you seen your audiences do this? Has this been you? Self-centered presentations lead to audiences that tune out.

This approach leads to the complete opposite of our goals for the presentation–for our audience to internalize and apply our messages. We want our ideas to spread, our concepts to be adopted, our lessons to be applied, but this cannot happen without one very important shift in thought…

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In her latest book (which I am currently devouring), the HBR’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Nancy Duarte explains why: “The people you’re addressing will determine whether your idea spreads or dies, simply by embracing or rejecting it” (Duarte, 2012). In essence, to accomplish this, a presenter must take a supporting or mentoring role to the audience–the real hero of the presentation, the one who must take the risk to adopt and apply the presenter’s idea.  Heroes, in mythology, literature, and film, have friends, helpers, and mentors (think Yoda and Luke, Gandalf and Frodo, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi) who provide gifts, tools, or much needed rescue.

What do these fellas have in common? They've all served as mentors and guides to extraordinary heroes. (Image Credits, from top left to bottom left: JD Hancock; GViciano; lamont_cranston; Gage Skidmore)

What do these fellas have in common? They’ve all served as mentors and guides to extraordinary heroes. (Image Credits, from top left to bottom left: JD Hancock; GViciano; lamont_cranston; Gage Skidmore)

Keep these three purposes in mind in considering how your goals align with your audience’s (Duarte, 2012):

  1. Give the hero a special gift (give people insights that will improve their lives)
  2. Teach the hero to use a “magical” tool (allow people to pick up a new skill or mind-set that empowers them)
  3. Help the hero get “unstuck” (an idea that gets the audience out of a difficult situation)

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Students panic or become frustrated when I ask them who their audience is and explain that the answer cannot be “everyone” or “people” or “students” even. While they can agree that understanding audience and putting audience needs before individual wants/goals/anxieties is important, the process of actually analyzing an audience and then applying that analysis to content building is not easy (especially because they rarely spend time objectively considering these ideas before diving right into PowerPoint or Keynote). Another common anxiety stems from the inability to appeal to every member of the audience.

Audience segmentation, a strategy Duarte discusses in Resonate and the HBR Guide, is one important means by which you can better connect with and audience and move the members towards action or a shift in ideology. Segmentation or analysis generally happens across three areas (for a comprehensive discussion of audience analysis and segmentation, see this Six Minutes article):

  1. Demographics/Ethnographics (age, education, ethnicity, gender, geography, culture, society)
    • Purpose: to learn who the audience is and what common ground there is
  2. Context/Politics (time/place, power, reason for attendance)
    • To discover how environmental and outside factors might affect an audience’s reception of a message.
  3. Psychographics (beliefs, values, attitudes)
    • Purpose: to discover what an audience thinks, knows, and believes about the topic
Image Credits, left to right:  Haags Uitburo, SP8254,  VinothChandar

Image Credits, left to right: Haags Uitburo, SP8254, VinothChandar

Answering these questions (What keeps the audience up at night? How might the resist?) may seem difficult or tedious, but the process is guaranteed to lead to a deeper understanding of each member or group of members of the audience. This understanding leads to crafting a message that is tailored to those who 1. would most benefit from the ideas presented, and 2. can help turn the idea into action. So, the purpose of segmentation is really two fold. Segmentation allows presenters to choose the person(s) who is going to help them spread an idea that resonates and helps the presenter determine how to also bring other members of the audience on board. So, even though a presenter should tailor his or her message to this one most useful audience member (or group, i.e. early adopters), he or she should not exclude other members of the audience.

Segmentation in action

In Resonate, Duarte illustrates the power of segmentation through an analysis of Ronald Reagan’s Space Shuttle Challenger speech. In this speech, Reagan expertly weaves between audiences, addressing individual groups all touched by this national tragedy while also leaving the nation with a sense of empowerment and hope.

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I share this example with my students, but find that their lack of connection to this event and this president makes it challenging to really help them see segmentation in action. So, as per the advice of my very smart colleague, Alex Rister, I am going to use President Obama’s recent speech on the Sandy Hook school shooting as an example of segmentation in action.

In this 18 minute speech, Obama identifies and addresses specific audiences:

  • The families of the victims
  • The survivors of the shooting
  • The first responders to the scene
  • The town of Newton
  • The nation as a whole (parents, non-parents, those who support stricter gun control, those who support 1st amendment rights)

The speech focuses on the immediate context (vigil) and places it in the national context (debate over gun control/gun rights). The immediate purpose of the speech is to eulogize the fallen teachers and children of Sandy Hook Elementary, but the greater purpose is to bring this event into the national gun control conversation.

How does Obama do this while still maintaining the immediate purpose? By addressing various members of the audience and then joining them via shared value–the value we all hold  for human life, safety, and security. Obama doesn’t exclude the nation from either grief over the loss of life or responsibility for this incident. Instead, he honors the immediate impact of the shooting on Newton and connects this experience to the greater cause at hand.

In depth audience analysis is not easy or quick, but if done thoughtfully and thoroughly, it can help you transform your self-centered message into an audience-centered idea that stays with them long after your presentation ends.

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Tweak Your Speech: Audience First

I am entering my fourth year of teaching public speaking and presentations; I’ve recently discovered that, as a student of a subject that fascinates me, I spend quite a bit of time analyzing public speaking situations. I like to observe how people perform under pressure, how they work to calm their own nerves enough to let their words and vision fly. I also find myself watching a crowd of listeners, observing positive and negative feedback, gauging the level of engagement, and analyzing potential sources of noise.

Thursday night, I attended an excellent reading series featuring several of my work colleagues. It was an excellent opportunity for some in context audience analysis, and it got me thinking about the importance of audience analysis as a starting point to any strong presentation. We tend to relegate audience analysis to the realm of the obvious. I often hear students tell me that their audience is “everyone” or that they don’t really think it’s that important to conduct an audience survey; I’ve heard individuals even say that this is a subject that they feel uncomfortable teaching, as if they are telling their audience something they already know. However, after 10 years of teaching, I have learned that nothing that we assume is common sense is actually applied and understood by most people.

In class on Wednesday, we discussed Duarte’s Presentation Ecosystem. I emphasize to students the importance of taking care with this ecosystem, to consider how each part of a presentation helps create balance and homeostasis in a presentation.

Endicott's Three-legged Stool of presenting is made up of message, visual story, and delivery.

I ask them to examine how this ecosystem flows and how each major component is supported by a myriad of processes and steps. Something that they often find surprising is that the first step in developing one’s message is in-depth audience analysis.

Duarte's diagram for the three legs of a presentation is a starting point for students of a new slide ideology.

Instead of moving right into ideation and writing out ideas, effective presenters begin by developing a relationship to the target audience. Our words are meaningless without an audience. It is the audience that takes the message, internalizes it, disseminates it to others. As Derek Sivers illustrates in this brief TED talk, it’s the guy who says, “yeah, that crazy dance looks fun” that actually starts a flash mob.

A great starting point to understanding audience is understanding how communication works. In Slide:ology, Duarte uses the example of Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix Systems, who credits his study of communication as the most important element to his success in Citrix.

As a Citrix user, I can appreciate how difficult it is to truly convey what this company does to the average user.

A presentation, though we may feel is a passive one sided communication context, is a two way transaction, an interchange between audience and presenter, a flow between signal and noise.

There are several key parts of this process, but understanding the importance of noise and feedback are key in analyzing an audience and what best reaches them, and adapting to audience feedback in the moment.

Noise can come in many forms. Some noise is external–loud air conditioning, frigid room, flickering lights. Some noise is internal–the speaker’s anxiety about being judged harshly, the audience’s lack of interest in the topic. Duarte identifies several more types of noise in Resonate:

A strong presenter understands the role of noise in a presentation; a strong presenter adapts and works through the noise. But, a strong presenter cannot identify points of noise and best strategies for eliminating noise if he or she does not devote significant time pre-speech and during speech to in-depth audience analysis. Developing a relationship with your audience before presenting, understanding what is going to generate positive feedback is a pivotal starting point for presenters. Your audience is the living conveyor of your message; they take your ideas and carry them out to the world.

The ultimate purpose of this communication transaction? To achieve shared meaning between speaker and audience. Ken Burke calls this identification.

Another mark of a presenter who truly puts audience first is adaptability to feedback. A strong presenter recognizes when an audience’s attention is waning, when they have built a wall of resistance against a particular idea, and how to break down that wall and regain momentum.

Great presenters are adaptive--they know how to read and react to audience feedback.

A strong presenter is a constant audience analyzer who adapts the approach and message based on feedback.  One brilliant strategy companies have developed to keep both audience members and presenters on their toes is the stand up meeting. In this rapid-fire PechaKucha-style of daily meeting, participants get together for short meet ups lasting about 15 minutes. Really excellent stand ups, according to Jason Yip, contributor at Martin Fowler.com, provide a good start to the day, focus on improvement of a team or project, reinforce the importance of focus, develop team building skills, and communicate the current status of a project–all while participants stand up.

So why standing up? Well, we often tend to ignore those less than subtle clues from our audience that they’ve had enough (fidgeting, texting, shuffling papers, spacing out). However, when participants are standing, it is nearly impossible to ignore this all important feedback that indicates your audience has had enough.

So, whether you use the stand up method or your own method for audience analysis before and during a speech, remember that a presenter is nothing without ideas that resonate; it’s the audience who turns ideas to action. Know thy audience!

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Help students gather primary research!

Our students know by now we love them. They have been consistently energetic and eager to learn. No, they are not perfect, but as a whole, they’ve made this first class of the year a memorable experience.

Currently, they are working on their Pecha Kuchas, which will be delivered next Tuesday. One of their tasks as they prepare is to gather primary research via brief audience surveys, which will help them learn more about their target audience, as well as give them a sense of how their topic is perceived by others. If you have a few moments and want to get a glimpse at the neat topics the students are discussing next week, please visit the January Class Surveys Google Doc!

 

 

On another note, these precious kids will also be getting a little talk from Y U NO Guy…

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