Ever observed a situation where two people were discussing a topic, but you couldn’t tell if they agreed or disagreed? Or how about two people talking while one gives the “deer in the headlights” look?
How often do we communicate strictly from our own point of view, without worrying if the receiver(s) of our message is even understanding us?
Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People is, “Seek First to Understand,
Then to Be Understood” I don’t know about you, but I think that this may just be one of the toughest things on Earth to do. I imagine childbirth is more difficult, but I’ll have to take your word for it on that one.
Why is it hard? Well, it takes work and for many people doesn’t come naturally. As a speaker are you forgetting that this applies to you as much on the stage as it does in one-to-one communications?
Do you take time to understand your audience before you ask them to understand you?
Do you also take the time to be sure what you’re going to say fits in their parameters?
Know your Audience – Speaking to retirees is different than speaking to youth is different than speaking to a corporate audience is different than speaking to non-profit volunteers is different than speaking to parents is different than speaking to … you get the idea.
Language – including vocabulary, cleanliness and amount of humor needs to fit
References – B&W Television may not even make sense to anyone under 30, and how many retirees are using twitter and foursquare?
Interaction – attention spans differ, so adding (or removing) some activities will be necessary
Delivery – vocals, body language, using the room and energy all depend on the audience
Customize your Message – You know your subject. Now take that knowledge and combine it with what you know about your audience and your venue (i.e. location and time).
Do you have limited space? Maybe you tell your stories in a more compact space.
A larger audience? Larger body language and longer pauses.
Mostly teens/men/women/etc.? Know what’s funny and most importantly what isn’t!
If you want to avoid that “dear in the headlights” look from your audience (like the one from your spouse), take the time to know your audience and your venue and then adjust your presentation. Whether your audience is 1000 or just your daughter, speaking to them on terms they understand will give you the best chance of being understood.