Tag Archives: resonate

Audience Analysis: Segmenting the Audience

Audience Segmentation Post.001

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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Workaholic Update

So, the past few months have been rather insane but amazing. I am gearing up for an Skype chat with Nancy Duarte, and my superteacher partner and I have revamped the entire online version of our course to transition from Duarte’s slide:ology to her second book, Resonate. Now that the online class is finally coming together, I can devote enough attention to revamping the entire on campus class around the Presentation Ecosystem. I am also working on an article for Six Minutes on the acronym C.R.A.P. (Contrast Repetition, Alignment, Proximity). Another project I’ve been working on for months is a new banner for my blog. I’ve scoured and tested a number of JD Hancock images and am ready to beg/pay him to allow me to use Gold from his metal men series.  In the meantime, I am working on a few more visual ideas and revisiting my “Your Speech is Toxic” deck. I am looking forward to a productive August!

Just a little something I cooked up…

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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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Tweak your delivery: three naked lessons

Note: I started this yesterday, then had to tweak me some visuals. Tweaking is exhausting!

I am as we speak sitting in my amazing class–this class is seriously great. It’s so inspiring to work with such a great bunch of learners and thinkers. Enough gushing, I am participating in today’s delivery workshop, which is led by the always engaging and energetic Alex Rister. Both Alex and I derive much inspiration for delivery from Garr Reynold’s book, The Naked Presenter. Reynold’s explores the delivery leg of the Presentation Zen system in this seminal text. What struck me most when I read this book, was just how empathetic to audience needs Reynold’s approach is. Think of how many boring, unengaging, forgettable presentations you’ve been forced to sit through. Think of just how many of those presentations you really could have done completely without because the presenter made him or herself irrelevant through plastic, robotic, frenetic, unpolished, and unclear delivery. At times, we fall back on ineffective delivery habits because we feel uncomfortable, we believe that effective speakers are all like Billy Mays and Tony Robbins (by the way, Tony Robbins is awesome–he just IS like that).  Some of the speakers I admire most–Jill Bolte Taylor, Benjamin Zander, Randy Pausch– are natural and real. They are unafraid to show passion, to be almost overwhelmed by the emotion they feel towards a topic, whether it is joy, sadness, jubilance, or indignant determination. This is the essence of naked delivery–an intrepid and unafraid soul. Three lessons that I take from the naked approach are:

1. Be unafraid

As I’ve been exploring and learning from Seth Godin via Alex, our lizard brain, our old survival brain, uses fear to keep us alive. There is no bigger fear for most of us than the fear we perceive from public speech. Our lizard brain says we cannot do this, that people will laugh, or judge poorly, or reject us. Our lizard brain says we are going to screw it all up, that no one will like us, that nothing we say will truly break through that wall of resistance we perceive between ourselves and our audience. Our lizard brain is wrong, and the best presenters know when to tell that lizard brain to peace the ____ out. Excellent presenters are intrepid–they are unafraid to share their big ideas–what if Martin Luther King had been afraid to share his vision with ALL of America? What if he’d been afraid to face opposition, hoses, dogs, bullets, bombs? Excellent presenters are unafraid to be themselves, to share their true passion with others.

2. Keep the energy flowing

I teach for anywhere between 4 and 8 hours at a time–ONE class. I admit that the first few months, the thought of this scared me to death, and I found many ways to take the attention off of myself and put it on group work or in class activities. I quickly realized though, that without me, students quickly reverted back to their favorite 4-hour lecture habits which include Facebook, Tetris, checking NFL scores, texting, and generally not internalizing the ideas of the class. After learning the basics of Naked Presenting, and knowing that I had to be what I wanted others to emulate/mirror, I realized that the only way to keep my students energized and engaged, the only way to help them in developing their own skills was to be energetic, effusive, and idealistic–basically, I had to be ME, the me who works 55 hours a week and exercises 5 days a week; the me who dances like a monkey when someone has an aha moment; the me who bursts into random voices and songs; even the me who is moved to shiny Benjamin Zander eyes when I hear or see something inspirational. I had to keep my Chi energy flowing.

3. Make the audience part of the presentation

Reynolds quotes Confucius in discussing the importance of participation:

Your audience should always have a living representation of the content. Reynolds provides us with many different ideas for how we can keep the audience engaged–from discussion groups and polls, to videos and physical demonstrations. Because I am a cerebral college professor, I tend to fall back on Socratic discussion questions; however, one of my pedagogical goals for this year is to cultivate better application of in-class concepts. Find some way to make the audience a part of your speech–ask them questions, integrate their ideas, make them get up and monkey dance with you! Break down that fourth wall and create real resonance.

I’ll leave you with Alex’s take on Naked Presenting; this version is specifically geared towards delivery for online students. Below that is also is the rest of my naked slidedeck.

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