Not long ago, A.wordsmith manager Lisa Lavora-De Beule published a useful post outlining 5 steps to enhance your public speaking. Every effective speech, however, shares a common beginning, one that happens long before the speaker gets to the podium: audience analysis.

Understanding one’s audience is one of the most important elements of effective communication. It gives you the insight you need to settle on an appropriate tone, style, language and content. Effective audience analysis ensures that the intended message gets across to the right people and that you meet the needs of your audience.

There are three phases in audience analysis: before, during and after the speech. In this blog post, we’ll go into detail about what to do during the first phase – before you even begin speaking to your audience.

1. Determine your goal.

In order to effectively reach your audience, you must first have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish with your communication. Are you trying to brainstorm, consult, sell or tell? Your presentation style will necessarily vary depending on your intention.

2. Identify presentation logistics.

Arming yourself with as much knowledge about the setup of the venue allows you to identify a Plan B if something goes wrong. To prepare, ask yourself the following questions: How big is my audience? ​Where will I be presenting, and how will the room be set up? Are there other presenters, and if so, in what order will you speak?  ​Will there be time for questions? Are there any norms for presenting to this group?

3. Understand the audience’s expectations and likely attitude about your presentation.

Do your homework​. Who is your primary audience? Will you be presenting at a formal or an informal meeting, and are there any expectations about the level of interaction of your presentation? What is the audience’s level of interest in your topic, and are there any strong emotional triggers? Is the audience likely to be agreeable, apathetic or critical?

4. Make sure you are addressing the audience’s knowledge level.

Understand the audience’s familiarity with the topic​. Is there jargon you need to be careful to avoid? Does the audience have common or conflicting interests? With a divided audience, you will need to address both sides of the topic.

Investing time in audience analysis before you begin mapping out your presentation can help ensure that your message comes across clearly. With the exception of the physical logistics of the room, each of these steps are just as important when it comes to written communications as well.

How do you set yourself up for success? What do you do before an important presentation to ensure that your communication is tailored to your audience?