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Audience-Centered Speaking


Techniques Public speaking > Articles > Audience-Centered Speaking

Speaker vs. Audience | Starting | Engaging | Ending | See also


Being audience-centered means putting the audience at the center of your presentation. This is a powerful approach to help you really connect and make a difference, rather than just making a speech or presenting dry knowledge.

Audiences respond to presentations that make sense, are relevant to them, reflect careful research and also sound interesting. They also respond to people who show they care, personally.

They say it is 'giving' a speech because it is that, a gift, given for the audience. It is not for the personal benefit of the presenter.

Speaker vs. Audience centrality

Many presentations are speaker-centered. It is all about the speaker saying what she or he wants to say, presenting information in a format that makes sense to them. This is a relatively easy and perhaps a bit lazy as it assumes not only that the speaker knows his or her subject (which may be reasonable) but that the audience have the responsibility to understand whatever is thrown at them in whatever fashion. College lecturers sometimes act like this.

Speaker-centered presenters present to the room or an 'audience' that is treated as a thing rather than a composition of people. They seek to be an authority that is not challenged. They are the experts and the audience, by contrast, are not. Maybe also, they are not expert and fear the judgement of the audience.

On the other hand, an audience-centered speaker sees the audience not as an audience but as a group of individuals, each with their own needs and perceptions. Their goal is not to present but to make the biggest difference to as many people as possible.

Paradoxically, the audience are likely to warm more to the speaker who shows an interest in them and tries to connect with them, rather than the speaker-centered person who is at the center of their own universe.

Starting with the audience

To be audience-centered, you should start and end with the audience. Find out who they are. Research the individual people if you can or otherwise understand the broader demographics. Seek out their hopes, interests, fears and desires. Find out how they learn, what they find funny and what they do not like.

If you know the audience, then you can design for the audience. You can customize your speech and shape your presentation for them. And in doing so, you can achieve your goals and more.

A particular consideration is to find a significant problem that the audience has that you can help address in your presentation. If you can do this, then you will have a very grateful set of people!

A final point worth remembering is that if you first make them happy then they will be happy to make you happy in return, including accepting your primary proposition.

Engaging the audience

In your presentation or speech, you can also engage the audience and engage with the audience.

Engaging the audience means presenting information that is of interest to them in a way that they find interesting. It means using their language and speaking to their needs. There are many ways of engaging in this way, from going down amongst them to using props and other items to surprise and delight them.

Engaging with the audience is more about the interactions you have with them. You can provoke them with questions and listen carefully to their answers. You can probe for information and laugh with them even when you make a mistake.

Ending with the audience

Ending with the audience means that they go away with something of value to each of them, personally. In closing, for example you may show them how what they have said is relevant to them.

If you end badly, then they will most likely remember your presentation as bad. If you end well, then there is a much better chance of them remembering you as an interesting and valuable speaker.

See also

Bonding principle, Authority principle


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