Part 3; Know What Your Audience Knows, Believes and Values
Some of you have sat in workshops and thought, “I know more about this than presenter.” You may have been right, but then you may have been wrong. While the presentation may have seemed remedial to you, it may not be because this was the limits of the speaker’s knowledge on the subject. It may have been a result of their limited knowledge of you and others in the audience.
When I once spoke to a group of Youth Workers in the North Dallas area, I knew that those in the audience were highly educated, trained and experienced professionals in their filed. I was a peer to them. So my message was one that I thought would add value to someone like me.
Months earlier when I had been speaking to entry level Youth Workers and their volunteer staffs, I spoke about some very basic principles that could guide their practices as they grew into their roles as leaders. They needed to know things like:
- teenagers do not need you nor want you to try to be cool
- that trying to compete with the marketplace to keep teenagers attention through entertainment is hopeless
- or that relating to teens was as much a matter of letting them get to know you as it is getting to know them.
If I had done this for the Dallas group, I would have lost them within the first two minutes. This was like gravity to them. They just operated as though those things were true without giving them any thought at all.
Unless your goal is to refresh their vision and remind them of what they have already bought into, the purpose when speaking to any group is to leave them with the feeling that you have taken them a step, or maybe even a few steps further down the road than they would otherwise have been without what you brought to them. So you have to start where they are.
So before you speak to any group, as much as is possible, find out what they know, believe and value far enough ahead of time that you can help them make that next step. You don't want to rush ahead and leave them behind. And you certainly don’t want to insult them by assuming they do not know, believe or value something that they already do. Again, the exception to this is if you are recasting vision or encouraging them in what they already buy into.
But if you accurately identify where they are, and then give them the information and inspiration they need to take that next step, you will have won not only won them as your audience, but as some faithful new friends.