Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Business Communications: Audience Analysis

       Competitive markets depend on business communications to be successful and being able to communicate effectively will further enhance the marketability of a company. For the speaker to reach out to the group, there are certain audience characteristics such as diversity in cross cultures, the appropriate communication channels, and the success of the message delivery process. 

Audience Characteristics
       To understand the characteristics of the audience requires the speaker to do research on what the needs of the group are and who he or she is addressing. A successful communicator will take the understanding approach by respecting the values and beliefs of different people. Sensitivity of verbal and non verbal behaviors and above all showing flexibility to the audience are critical to being a successful communicator. It is necessary to keep in mind the generation of the audience as age factors in to the delivery of the message, the education level, and other demographic characteristics. Sometimes this information is necessary especially if the information being delivered is of a complex nature or in this case showcasing sales trends and forecasts. The speaker keeps the type of audience in mind so as to deliver a clear and concise message that everyone will understand. By knowing the audience well, it helps the speaker to be better prepared in his or her presentation. 

For the speaker to present to a large group, he/she has to touch on subjects that will reach out to the following areas:
  • Stakeholders have an interest in the company. They look at the whole picture and see how the company is doing in sales and revenue versus costs and expenditures. They are the ones who decide the focus of the company and can often drive the price of stock in a company up or down based on information they receive. These can be shareholders to employees or even customers.
  • Managers are concerned with the bottom line, the sales and profits of the company, the operations costs and revenue. By seeing how the sales are, managers can better track the results within given departments and they can see where improvements need to be made.
  • Salespeople – Can see the market trends and where they can focus on in the future to make the company more successful.
  • Customers are interested in product and service. They want to see how the product is doing in the marketplace.  The customer can be vendors too who are interested in both product and quarterly sales.
Preparedness is vital to addressing all concerns, questions, and topics in the presentation. In a diverse group such as mentioned, the speaker has to come prepared to be able to deliver an effective message to everyone.

Appropriate Communication Channels

When giving a presentation there are several areas of communication channels that are important and what everyone has to know to be effective. The most important piece is to match the needs of the audience to the contents of the presentation. That would require knowing the audience and thoroughly knowing the material that is being presented. During the presentation, the message being conveyed has to be strong and with conviction. Getting up in front of a group of people can make a person nervous so the better prepared the speaker is the better the outcome of the talk will be. There are different levels of communication channels such as face-to-face meetings and written communications. In this scenario the focus of the speaker will be using a Power Point or Keynote presentation. A presentation can create an opportunity to have excellent visuals and graphs to show a product or quarterly sales results. It is important to note that the speaker should be careful to not have too many visuals that clutter the slides or tables imported on the slide that make it extremely small for the audience to see. The presentation should always be in short bullet information so the speaker can elaborate and not fall into the bad habit of just reading from the slide or directly from the speaker notes.
Body language is very important when all eyes are on the speaker. Moving around the room and using appropriate hand gestures will convey the message of ease and a natural movement. Body language involves posture and it is important for the speaker to notice the body language of his or her audience also. Different cultures will show various types of body language. Analyzing the audience beforehand will help the speaker understand who they are talking to. Japanese people sit quiet and attentively, Americans tend to fidget or do things that other cultures find disrespectful such as texting or typing work on a laptop during the presentation. These are areas that the speaker would need to make adjustments for ahead of time and know how to proceed if distractions do occur.  Being mindful of diversity of the audience helps the speaker understand that because a person is sitting still that does not necessarily indicate they are bored with the talk.
Awareness of time constraints is a way to respect your audience and show value to their timetable. There may be another meeting people need to attend, an airplane to catch, or an important project that need attention. Whatever the reasons are for each respective audience member, the speaker has to keep that in mind by timing the presentation to start and finish on time. If the meeting allows for a 15 minute presentation, then allow enough time cover all the points without going over.
Engaging the audience is a way to give them the type of message they want to hear by creating an interacting discussion. Allow time for questions at the end and be prepared to answer them. During the talk use metaphors which give understanding and clarity to the audience.

Diversity of the Audience

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, body language is different depending on the type of culture at the meeting.  Diversity is not limited to a varied large group of people but also takes into account the type of culture of people who are present. This refers back to demographic characteristics and also ties into the culture of people. It is important for the speaker to maintain eye contact with his or her audience by looking around the room, just above the person’s head so it does not appear that the speaker is staring at people. Americans are used to people who make direct eye contact back and can consider it rude if the audience is not looking at the speaker. However, in different cultures, such as Japan, people are taught to not look at the eyes but drop eye contact to the neck as sign of deference. In Muslim countries, women are not to have eye contact with males but Arab men expect direct eye contact. Staring is considered rude in America, but in England the people do stare with occasional blinking. By keeping these considerations in mind, it will help to know the cultural differences of the audience so the speaker realizes the type of audience when making presentations.

Message Effectiveness

The benefits of effective communication give audience certain advantages of the product or company. By providing the sales forecasts, the speaker is giving information in a message suggesting a positive or good idea. For stakeholders and managers to decide on the global implications of the presentation, the speaker has to provide persuasive messages which outline the benefits and reasons for the action taken or what the speaker wants as an action on the part of the company. A persuasive message overcomes the audience resistance and allows them to accept the information more readily.

            With some of these points, the speaker can be better prepared for the meeting and present the information for all involved. By having knowledge of the audience and keeping the characteristics of the diversity of the group, this will allow the speaker to be mindful of his or her own persona and how that persona is reflected onto the group. By keeping in mind the benefits of an effective communicator, the audience will leave the meeting feeling as though they were individually catered by having all their needs met with the information presented.

Locker, K., & Kienzler, D. (2008). Business and administrative communications (8th ed.).  New York: McGraw-Hill.
Toastmasters International. (2008). Become the speaker and leader you want to be. Retrieved December 21, 2009 from http://www.toastmasters.org/

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