Managing Audience Perception

WRITTEN March 24, 2015 Author: Rich Atkins

Communication is a process. Merriam-Webster defines communication as the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.

The audience receives the information you send. It will then decode the message  passing 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 what I am communicating?
  • How much do they already know about the topic?
  • What will be their likely attitude? (Welcoming? Questioning?)
  • What additional questions will be generated?
  • When are scientific and technical terms or jargon acceptable?

Looking at your audience you will see people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and genders, but truly, that is just the surface. This is where you may have to dig deeper. You have to prepare your communication for the diversity of your audience. The more you learn about the audience, the better you will be able to direct your communications, so they will clearly hear your message.

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.

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

Learn more about our Introductory or Advanced Presentation Skills training classes, or find other tools for your life on our public classes list. See all of our upcoming seminars.

Photo by Luis Quintero

Other Resources:

Getting to Know Your Audience

Presentation and Perception

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