Managing Audience Perceptions

WRITTEN March 24, 2015 Author: Rich Atkins

Communication is a process in which the sender encodes a message through a selected channel (verbally, non-verbally, and written) and the receiver decodes the message after having passed it through his/her filter of experience, senses, and attention. When the receiver responds, a feedback loop is created and the process begins again. That is where audience perception comes into play.

Audience PerceptionAudience Awareness

Audiences are composed of people, all of whom have different perceptions. Here are three questions that will yield a variety of answers from a cross-section of people simply because their perceptions differ:

  • What is a lot of money?
  • What is tall?
  • What is hot?

Perception is a process by which a receiver filters and interprets information from the senses to create a meaningful picture of the world.

Preparing for the Audience

You will have the best understanding of how to approach your audience if you know as much as you can about them. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch states, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Ask yourself the following questions to help you clarify who your audience is:

  • Who is the most likely audience for my communication?
  • How much do they already know?
  • What will be their likely attitude?
  • What additional questions will be generated?
  • When are scientific and technical terms or jargon acceptable?

Try to imagine your audience’s understandings, background, limitations, perceptions, and even biases. In doing this, you will be able to communicate directly and appropriately. This is similar to a good salesperson who considers the prospective buyer’s wants and needs.

We will have the best understanding of how to approach our audience if we know as much as we can about them. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch states, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Consider what your audience may perceive in you and your words before you speak (or write) to them.

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