How Do You Know What the Audience Wants?

Audiences are such interesting creatures. They are, of course, made up of many people with different backgrounds, hopes, reasons to be there, and preoccupations. At the same time, as any actor or public speaker can attest, each audience has a unified personality. 

Some audiences are quiet. Some are raucous. Some give off a “I’ll let you know if this is any good” vibe, while others are excited about whatever’s happening onstage. Some audiences come in ready to laugh, and others barely crack a smile.

So how can you prepare for this unpredictable entity, the audience?

I suggest two complementary actions. First, be incredibly clear about your intention. What do you want the people listening to you to feel, think, or do right after your talk? Imagine it. Write down the words you hope they’ll say. Think about your ideal audience member, and craft your intention specifically for her.

Second, once you’ve created your talk with this intention in mind, don’t water it down. There will be people who don’t love it, who think you talk too fast, or tell too many stories, or don’t walk around enough, or walk around too much, or something. But you have created something that is for someone, not for everyone.

In short, you can’t know what the audience wants. It’s impossible. But you can know what your ideal audience member wants, and you can speak directly to them.

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