Effective Public Speaking
Effective Public Speaking

Effective Public Speaking

Lead Author(s): George Griffin and Contributors

Student Price: $63.00

Designed to teach the skills and build the confidence your students need to become effective public speakers.

This content has been used by 6,007 students

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Key features in this textbook

Effective Public Speaking gives students the confidence and competence in preparing and presenting speeches with real student videos, a comprehensive glossary, up to five in-class activities per chapter, and a full chapter on controlling speech anxiety.
Using Bongo for Top Hat, students can practice their oral communication skills and get feedback from instructors or their peers.
Built-in assessment questions embedded throughout chapters so students can read a little, do a little, and test themselves to see what they know!

Comparison of Public Speaking Textbooks

Consider adding Top Hat’s Effective Public Speaking textbook to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

$63

Accessible on any device for lifetime access

$121.80

Hardcover print text only

$99.29

Hardcover print text only

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

$63

Accessible on any device for life

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

$121.80

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

$99.29

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

George Griffin, Professor of SpeechKeiser University

George Griffin earned his degrees at the University of West Florida and Auburn University. He has been teaching college, business seminars and workshops for over 30 years, while still doing public speaking engagements for non-profit organizations. Currently, he is serving as the Professor of Speech at Keiser University, Orlando, and as Adjunct Professor at Stetson University. George is also the author of “STAGE FRIGHT! A Student-Friendly Guide to Managing the Jitters.”

Contributing Authors

Wade CorneliusNew Mexico State University

Kathryn DederichsUniversity of St. Thomas

Morgan GintherInstructional Designer at Texas A & M

Luke GreenSt. Cloud Technical and Community College

María Elena BermúdezGeorgia State University

Daryle NaganoEl Camino College

Wendy YarberryFlorida State College at Jacksonville

Allen DavisIndiana University

Jasmine RobertsOhio State University

Krista MacDonaldDoña Ana Community College

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 7: Audience Analysis and Adaptation

The audience at the first inauguration of former President Barack Obama, ​January 20th, 2009. The inauguration set a record attendance for any event held in Washington D.C., with an estimated attendance of 1.8 million people. [1]


“If the people in the audience are talking, you're being ignored. If the people are gazing at you, you've got something they want to hear.”
- Chuck Berry
"History has repeatedly been changed by people who had the desire and the ability to transfer their convictions and emotions to their listeners."
- Dale Carnegie

Table of Contents

Lesson Objectives

After reading this chapter, you will be able to: 

  • Become audience-centered speakers
  • Understand the process of audience analysis and audience adaptation
  • Identify and perform the different methods and techniques of audience analysis and audience adaptation
  • Understand the importance of examining the audience before delivering a speech
  • Make speech content meaningful to listeners by adapting the message to the audience’s attitudes, interests, and experiences

Introduction

In 2004, a young politician stood in front of people and delivered a keynote address at a convention in Boston, Massachusetts. As he spoke, he drew the audience in with his charismatic delivery and engaging content. Some considered this speech one of the greatest in recent U.S. history. The impressive speaker was not soon forgotten, and four years later he became president of the United States. Although Barack Obama’s delivery is credited as the key factor that hooked the audience into the speech, his ability to appeal to a wide variety of experiences, values, and ideologies made his speech content relatable. From discussing his father’s immigration path (which other American immigrant families could relate to), his mother’s American roots (which long-time Americans could relate to), to the everyday struggles and hopes shared by many in the United States, the consistent audience adaptation made the speech more appealing to audiences across the country and affirmed his authenticity as a speaker. Here's a short clip from his speech that exemplifies his appeal to a wide audience.


Obama's speech demonstrates the importance of knowing your audience’s beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests regarding your speech topic. In this chapter, we will explore how we can make speech content meaningful to our audience by using audience analysis and audience adaptation. The first part of the chapter will examine the concept of audience-centered speaking. Following this discussion, we will clarify the similarities and differences between audience analysis and audience adaptation. Next, we will go over the methods used to analyze an audience before a speech, and define examples of audience analysis types. The last part of the chapter will examine audience adaptation methods and conclude with strategies used to adapt the speech content and delivery.

Audience-Centric Speaking

In the previous chapter, we discussed speech anxiety and ways to control nervous tendencies. However, let’s recall some of the thoughts individuals may have that contribute to speech anxiety:

  • “I’m afraid I’ll forget something.”
  • “I won’t look good in front of people.”
  • “I’ll probably say something silly.”


When giving a speech, pay attention to your audience's reactions. [2]​

Notice a common theme articulated in the thoughts- a focus on the speaker and not the audience. Sometimes as speakers, we pay too much attention to our role in the public speaking process and not enough on the ways in which we can enhance how the audience processes the speech. In other words, during speech preparation, speakers should continually consider ways to appeal to the audience’s perceptions. Public speaking is an audience-centered activity. It’s the process of focusing on the listener’s needs and crafting the speech content to appeal to their expectations. Audience-centered speakers are often perceived as more engaging, relatable and easy to listen to, all of which contributes to favorable perceptions of the speech content.

You may also think of the importance of being an audience-centered speaker in a common academic situation. During a college course, it is essential for professors to engage in audience-centered lectures by understanding the students’ interests and experiences in order to make the course material more meaningful to their students. Providing clear, relatable examples and meeting the students’ listening needs are some ways to achieve this.

Professors who deliver canned lectures, in which there is more “talking at” students than true engagement, have not considered the process of audience-centered speaking, which results in a failure to establish a connection with the audience. As you develop your speaking skills, you need to learn how to create that bond with your listeners. It not only enhances your credibility, but the connection between the speaker and the audience makes the public speaking experience tremendously rewarding for both parties (not to mention a great way to minimize speech anxiety!).

The primary way to achieve an audience-centered speech is by using audience analysis and audience adaptation methods. The next section will define the two concepts and discuss their similarities as well as differences.

Remember – it’s not all about you! It’s not all about your speech. It’s all about the audience. If not for the audience, there is no reason to give a speech!


Click here to see the script for Video 7.01a.

Click here to see the script for Video 7.01b.

Q7.01

Which of the following is the best example of an audience-centered speaker?

A

A speaker who reads the speech outline, PowerPoint, or notecards word-for-word.

B

A speaker who incorporates conversational skills in delivery and adapts to situational factors in the moment in order to meet the listeners’ expectations.

C

A speaker who delivers a speech with strong argumentation and precisely follows the speech requirements, rarely venturing from the professor’s guidelines.

D

All of the above.


Audience Analysis vs. Audience Adaptation

Make sure you adapt your speech to your audience. [3]​

When first hearing the terms “audience analysis” and “audience adaptation,” you may think the two phrases are essentially the same. Indeed, there are similarities between understanding your audience and making the content meaningful to them. We will discuss the specific similarities very shortly. However, the terms are in fact different. Audience analysis refers to careful consideration and examination of the audience, specifically their interests, attitudes, values, beliefs, and experiences. Audience adaptation is the process of creating and modifying content that matches up with the audience’s attitudes, values, experiences, and interests. It refers to the content choices we make as speakers in order to make our speeches more appealing and relatable to the listeners. Furthermore, audience adaptation also refers to delivering the speech in a meaningful manner that resonates with the listeners’ expectations.

Both audience analysis and audience adaptation require the speaker to closely focus more on the audience and their perceptions of the speech topic. However, unlike audience adaptation, audience analysis usually takes place before the speech is actually delivered. In order to feel truly prepared, you have to consider the audience before the day of your presentation. You may be thinking, “Well, how can I consider or examine my audience when I haven’t even met them yet?” There are a variety of methods a speaker can use to engage in audience analysis, and such approaches will be discussed later in the chapter. Audience adaptation usually takes place during the writing and delivering of the speech, and can be understood as the product of the analysis conducted before the presentation.

Let’s examine the terms more closely. Imagine you are delivering a speech on the topic of the importance of mentorship in the lives of children and adolescents. Rather than delivering a broad presentation that covers all the evidence and examples that illustrate the importance of mentorship, you want to first consider the listeners who will be in the room (audience analysis). Are you speaking to a diverse audience in terms of gender, race, age, and regional upbringing? Or are you speaking to a homogenous group, or a group that shares relatively common experiences, social upbringing, and demographic factors? How much knowledge does your audience have of the speech topic? These questions are examples of proper audience analysis. Again, we would preferably ask these kinds of questions long before the speech, as the answers will determine what kind of content and examples you’ll use to make the message engaging to the audience (audience adaptation).

For example, if your audience is made up of young professionals starting out in their careers, you might point out that corporations such as Bank of America encourage and support mentoring – Bank of America provided mentors to over 100,000 kids, including over 200,000 hours donated by 25,000 employees (Bank of America, “Corporate Social Responsibility,” 2012). If you have a mostly male audience, you may want to include success stories from Big Brothers. College-educated audience members might be swayed by the statistics of how mentoring increases the chances of college enrollment.

Click here to see the script for Video 7.02.

Make sure your examples and references are suited to your audience. [4]​

If our audience is college-aged young adults, you may want to ask the audience to recall their high school experiences (which will most likely be relatively recent in their minds) to demonstrate the importance of mentorship. You can specifically ask them to refer to their positive experiences with role models and influential figures, such as coaches, teachers, counselors, or older peers. However, if the audience is a group of middle-aged parents, you may want to refer to examples that demonstrate the positive impact of mentorship on the social development of children. Why? Many parents hope their children will be able to socially develop in a healthy manner; therefore, providing evidence and content that connects with that hope will help to make your speech more appealing and interesting to this audience. Although the two groups have similarities, they also have differences in attitudes, life experiences, and interests that you would need to carefully consider. In other words, the speech will resonate more with both groups because of your analysis and adaptation. 


Q7.02

Match ‘audience analysis’ and ‘audience adaptation’ with the correct examples indicated below.

Premise
Response
1

Using graphs to illustrate statistical information to the audience

A

Audience analysis

2

Observing an audience member nodding in agreement with the speech

B

Audience adaptation

3

Using characters from the television show “Sesame Street” as an example in a speech delivered to young children.

C

Audience adaptation

4

Asking questions about the audience’s qualities¸ attitudes¸ and experiences

D

Audience analysis


Audience analysis will not only help you adapt your content, but it will also help you adapt your delivery. For example, the vocabulary of the mentorship speech would be different when presented to college students in comparison to a group of middle-aged parents. You want to use language that is familiar to the audience and this will differ depending upon who you’re speaking to. However, you would not be able to engage in this type of audience adaptation without first knowing your audience through careful analysis. Remember both audience analysis and adaptation are very important in order to be an audience-centered speaker. Now that you’re familiar with some of the similarities and differences between audience analysis and audience adaptation, let’s discuss the methods of audience analysis in more detail.


Audience analysis helps us to understand what we know or would like to know about the listeners. It also aids greatly in developing your speech approach. During preparation, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Who are my listeners? 
  • What do I want the audience to believe or do in response to listening to my speech? 
  • How will I accomplish this? 
  • Why should they listen to me? 
  • What’s in it for them? 

Careful audience analysis will help you move closer to achieving your speech goal. But how exactly can you conduct audience analysis? Gathering and interpreting information about the audience is the primary way to perform audience analysis. Let’s examine some of the audience analysis methods in order to answer this question.

Observational Analysis

Observational analysis, or taking a close look at the audience prior to the speech, is one of the more common ways to conduct audience analysis. Since many of your speeches for this course will be conducted in a classroom setting, you have a great advantage over speakers who do not deliver in a classroom because you’ve probably participated in observational analysis long before the day of your speech. You’re speaking to your classmates and will most likely know the size of the audience, their general age bracket, gender breakdown, cultural diversity, etc. Use all of these advantages when designing the speech content.

Observational analysis can happen in the moment as well. In other words, it’s important to observe your audience in the moment of delivering your speech. Although the chapter previously discussed audience analysis as a process that happens before the speech, observational analysis is one exception to this rule. A simple example is observing the overall body language of the audience members. If you find people who appear tired or are looking around the room, it could be an indication that the audience is not engaged and is losing interest in listening to your speech. 

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Creating Questionnaires and Surveys

Have you ever received a customer satisfaction survey after shopping at a store or buying an item online? Although customers may find surveys time-consuming, they provide companies and organizations with valuable insights and information about consumers. The same audience analysis method can be used in public speaking. A survey is a series of questions that asks about the participant’s attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs as it relates to the subject at hand. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of questions included in a survey: close-ended questions and open-ended questions. Close-ended questions are those that include answers provided by the interviewer. Below is an example of a close-ended question:



As you can see, close-ended questions should be straightforward and provide answers for the participant to select. On the other hand, open-ended questions do not provide answers, but instead solicit a free response from the participant to answer using his or her own words. An example of this is: “What are some of the factors that prevent you from seeing your doctor on a regular basis?” 



Q7.03

How many types of general questions could be included in a survey?


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Conducting Focus Groups

Creating a focus group can be a useful way of gauging how your speech will resonate with your target audience. [5]​

A focus group is a small group of individuals who come together and discuss their reactions, attitudes, beliefs, or interests concerning a particular topic. They usually represent the particular demographic, social or cultural background that the speaker is trying to reach. Furthermore, the interviewer prompts the questions and facilitates discussion between the participants. Market research companies pay a great deal of money to motivate people to participate in focus group studies; however, you will not need to do this given the academic context and overall goal of your speech (you’re not assembling a widespread campaign or trying to persuade your classmates to buy a product for your personal profit).

Although it takes time, consider holding an informal focus group about your speech topic with a few people who represent your target audience. To prepare for your in-class speech, ask friends, roommates, and relatives to participate. Doing this will help you better understand the audience and focus the direction of the speech. Remember, your goal is to gather useful information, not to lead or influence the focus group! Be sure to keep in mind the specific reasons why you’re conducting the focus group and what you hope to accomplish or learn.


External Research on Target Audience

In some situations, you may not have access to the audience prior to delivering a speech. In these cases, consider looking at external research on the target audience by examining results from previous surveys, focus groups, and general studies as it relates to your speech topic. For instance, if you’re trying to persuade a group of business professionals to volunteer for a local charity event, you may want to examine research studies that reveal the motivational factors that drive this group to engage in philanthropic efforts. Although you were not able to personally interview or conduct a focus group using the exact audience you’ll eventually address, using the results from credible research studies can still help you to create a strategic approach to the speech. You could also use statistical information about the audience from government websites such as the U.S. Census Bureau or FedStats.gov. These sites provide information on education, population trends, health and wellness, socioeconomic trends, and other important data about your audience that can affect your choices in speech content and delivery. Below is a list of websites that assist in finding external research for audience analysis purposes:

Audience Analysis Types

We’ve spent some time discussing the various methods used to conduct audience analysis. But what specific factors should we look for when conducting audience analysis? Let’s consider the general ways we can examine our audience, or the audience analysis types. We will specifically focus on demographic analysis, psychological analysis, and situational analysis.

Speakers using demographic analysis examine demographical data and background information to better understand the audience. These demographics range from race, age, gender, to religion, culture, and education. Psychological analysis investigates the audience’s beliefs, interests, values, and personalities. Knowing your audience’s attitudes, especially in regard to your speech topic, is essential to delivering a successful speech. Finally, situational analysis examines factors such as room space, temperature, acoustics, technology, and audience size. Keep in mind that you are not limited to selecting only one type of audience analysis. What good is it to only know your audience’s demographic background without also knowing their attitudes and values? A solid combination of each audience analysis type is key to performing successful examinations. 

Q7.04

How do demographics affect a person’s viewpoint(s) of the world? Provide a specific example that helps illustrate the impact of demographics on attitudes and beliefs.


Demographic Analysis

Demographics are probably one of the first factors or characteristics you may notice about your audience. As mentioned earlier, if you are delivering a speech to your classmates, you probably already know their average age, racial makeup, education level, and other factors. Demographics are important to examine before delivering your message because they help people to make sense of the world. In other words, demographics have a profound impact on our outlook. For example, a recent survey from TIME magazine indicated that younger Americans, ages 18-34, tend to define "family" using more non-traditional terms, such as same-sex parents, single-parent households, blended households, and adoptive parents. However, older Americans, ages 45-64, defined "family" in a way that follows traditional notions, such as the two-parent, heterosexual, nuclear family structure. Why is this, you may ask? You can find the answer to this when looking at the ways in which different demographics influence audience perceptions. 

When giving a speech, it is important to keep in mind the age make-up of your audience. [6]

Age

Age is one of the most influential demographic factors. Age helps to solidify group membership and cultivate experiences and personal histories. You may frequently hear buzz terms like “millennials” or “baby boomers” in the news media to indicate the generational differences in experiences, attitudes, and lifestyles. When speaking to a group of college students, you can make the assumption that many of these individuals grew up with the Internet (not to be confused with being technologically savvy). It is also safe to assume that they may not be able to imagine a world without the tremendous social and economic influence of the Internet. However, an audience full of 50- to 60-year-olds is able to recall a world without the Internet because they were born before the internet age.

Therefore, it is important to use speech content that is in line with the audience’s frame of reference or the audience’s ability to recall a specific example or event based upon their personal background. References to television shows such as “Mork and Mindy” or “Cheers” may not be the best examples to use to make your speech content connect with a college-aged audience, since these shows were created and became popular before the audience was born. Overall, think carefully about how the age of your audience could potentially influence how they process your message.

Finally, consider how the audience’s average age may affect how they perceive you as a speaker, in terms of credibility and social attractiveness. Speakers who share similar demographic qualities with their audience are perceived more favorably and increase the likelihood that the audience will think positively about the message. However, sometimes the similarity effect can backfire if it causes the audience to question your expertise. For example, depending on the speech topic, younger speakers are viewed as inexperienced, thus lacking in credibility. A teenager speaking about the importance of extracurricular activities may not have expertise in terms of educational background or research experience, but could have expertise as it relates to personal experience. Be sure to prepare for this situation if it applies to your speech.


Click here to see the script for Video 7.03.

Gender

When preparing a speech, think about how to make your topic relatable to people of all gender groups. [7]​

Gender categorizes characteristics of masculinity, femininity, and non-specific gender identities. More importantly, gender can inform an individual's life experiences, as there are different societal expectations for men and women. Consequently, gender also affects viewpoints about the world around us. For example, although men and women are both victims of sexual assault, women are disproportionately targets, and may feel particularly susceptible to becoming affected by the issue. Therefore, how can a speaker prepare for a speech topic that may be more relatable to one gender more than the other? Creative and thoughtful audience adaptation helps to solve challenges like this.

Consider making indirect connections with the gender group that may not be directly affected by your speech topic. Going back to the example topic of sexual assault, you may want to implement an emotional appeal to the men in the audience by encouraging them to empathize with female victims. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if one of the victims were their sister, mother, significant other, or best friend. Also, you could demonstrate how men play an essential role in preventing sexual assaults by challenging beliefs and behaviors that encourage it.

Race

Like gender, race can influence one’s life experiences. According to a CNN poll conducted in November 2015, 66% of African Americans and 64% of Hispanics reported that racism is a big problem in today’s society, whereas only 44% of Caucasian Americans agreed with this statement. The results from this survey indicate a huge difference in experiences and realities across racial demographics. For your speech, use content that appeals to a wide variety of racial realities if that is what your audience contains. However, avoid using slang terms in order to pander to a particular racial group in the audience because the listeners will be offended (ex: saying “What’s up, homies?” to a group of African Americans – especially if you are not African American!). This reinforces harmful stereotypes, which will be discussed later in the chapter.

Culture

Different cultures have different values that will affect how people from those cultures receive your speech. [8]​

A shared set of values, beliefs, customs, and norms is a simple way to define culture. Similar to the factors previously mentioned, your audience’s cultural values and background have a tremendous impact on their beliefs and attitudes. Some people come from “individualistic” cultures, where self-reliance, personal responsibility, and independence are core values that are considered more important than group benefits. Countries such as Germany, Canada, and the United States have individualistic cultures. Conversely, "collectivistic" cultures are characterized by collaboration, generosity, communal/societal benefits, and selflessness. Countries such as China, Japan, and Nigeria have collectivistic cultures.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that audiences from individualistic cultures were more receptive to messages that emphasized individual gains and demonstrated the topic’s direct impact on the individual. However, audiences from collectivistic cultures perceived a message more favorably if it included information about communal gains or benefits. This demonstrates how cultural perspectives influence the effectiveness of information presented in the speech.

If you’re delivering to your classmates, try not to alienate international students by telling jokes that are based on cultural idioms. Humor is influenced by cultural norms so try to use examples that are universally acceptable across different cultures. Finally, the audience’s cultural background can determine your speech delivery. Although eye contact signifies confidence in some cultures (as is the case for the United States), for other cultures, it is disrespectful to make direct eye contact with people, especially superiors. Also using the word “you” can be seen as a great way of engaging with the audience in individualistic cultures, while other cultures may perceive the usage of the word as an aggressive tactic. Being aware of your audience’s cultural background will help you shape not only the speech content, but also the overall delivery. 

Religion

Not only are there many religions, but there are many variations within each religion. Do not make assumptions about your audience's beliefs, and make sure you are accurate and respectful when speaking about them. [9]

There are thousands of religions around the world that put forth a wide variety of norms, moral guidelines, beliefs, and lifestyles that individuals abide by. It is wise to consider the religious makeup of your audience, since religion (or lack thereof) influences global attitudes and beliefs. However, try not to make generalized assumptions about your audience’s religious background. 

Additionally, there is a great deal of variety within religious groups. Muslims in Pakistan are different from Muslims in Sierra Leone or the United States. Catholics are different from Protestants. Delivering a “one-size-fits-all” speech for a particular religious background would rarely be successful.

This is another area where pandering to the perceived religion of the audience can get a speaker in trouble. We have witnessed politicians, for example, addressing a Jewish organization saying things like, “I was just watching ‘Schindler's List’ the other night…”

Or addressing a Christian university audience by referring to the biblical book of 2nd Corinthians as “Two Corinthians,” rather than “Second Corinthians” as Christians refer to it. Such mistakes can cause the audience to doubt your personal knowledge of the Bible.

Education

Keep the education level of your audience in mind in order to avoid talking down to them, or bewildering them with unfamiliar terms and concepts. [10]

Knowing your audience’s educational background helps to determine speech content and language choice. Imagine you are delivering a speech on school safety to a group of high school students, and then to a group of college graduates. Your language choice will vary greatly, not only because of the audience’s age, but also because of their educational background. Avoid complicated jargon for audiences who do not typically use this type of language. Similarly, do not “talk down” to your audience because they may perceive this as condescending. Your content will also need to be adjusted, as a more highly educated audience expects more evidence and deeper analysis.

Stereotypes and Demographic Analysis

One of the dangers of conducting demographic analysis it that it is easy to fall into stereotyping your audience. For example, if you know that your audience is between 20 and 25 years old, you would be safe in assuming that they are relatively knowledgeable on how to use social media. People in that age category came into adolescence and young adulthood during the rise of social media. If you find that your audience is in their 60s, you might safely assume that they have a more limited knowledge of social media, since they developed their information habits during a period when social media did not exist. This would be good use of your demographic research to help prepare your presentation.

However, you cross into stereotyping by assuming that everyone in the group has the same knowledge, background, or experience. For example, if you said to that group of 60+ audience members, “I’m sure no one in this room knows what ‘Snapchat’ is…”, you might be offending any tech-savvy senior citizens in the room. Likewise, if you said to the 20-something audience, “Of course everybody in here has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, right?”, you may be excluding a few who don’t.

On a particular occasion, a male student said in class, “I’m sure the girls in class don’t know much about ROTC training…” He was unaware that the young woman sitting three seats away was planning a military career and was currently in ROTC. Although it was true that most of the other women in class were unfamiliar with military training, she was quite offended by his stereotyping assessment. If you are worried about stereotyping your audience, you could provide support for some of your claims in the speech to be on the safe side. Going back to the example earlier about social media knowledge across different age groups, the Pew Research Center recently reported that 89 percent of adults ages 18-29 use social media websites, whereas only 49 percent of adults 65+ engage in social media networks (Pew Research Center, “Social Media Use by Age Over Time”, 2014). You could say to an audience of 20 to 25 year olds, “Many of us in this room know and use social media networks. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center close to 90 percent of adults between the ages of 18-29 use social media.” Using outside sources, in addition to demographic analysis, will help you make informed assumptions about your audience, instead of stereotyping them.


Click here to see the script for Video 7.04.

Q7.05

Poor demographic analysis can sometimes lead the speaker to use _________ that negatively affect the speech content and effectiveness. Select all that apply.

A

Surveys

B

Stereotypes

C

Inaccurate assumptions

D

Focus groups


Psychological Analysis

Psychological analysis, or “psychographics,” refers to the close examination of the audience’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and values. At this point in the chapter, you may realize that it is counterproductive to deliver a speech without knowing your audience’s general attitudes toward the topic. Having this knowledge about the audience helps the speaker to figure out how the audience may react to the speech. While demographic analysis tells the speaker who the audience is, psychological analysis tells the speaker how and why the audience thinks or behaves in a certain manner.

We are not born with attitudes. We learn them. Our social upbringing, culture, and religion are all major factors in the development of our attitudes. Also, attitudes tend to be more specific than values. Your attitude may vary depending upon what you are evaluating, whereas values are life principles that remain consistent across situations. Your attitude about school may be different from your attitude about hanging out with your friends. However, values such as freedom, equality, and respect are life principles that are more resistant to change than attitudes and would apply for you whether you were in school or with friends.

Effective psychological analysis does more than simply figure out the attitudes an audience may have toward your speech topic. It should go a step further and figure out why the audience feels a certain way. Doing this will make the speech content more impactful. Furthermore, knowing the reason for your audience’s attitudes helps you as the speaker to figure out how to respond during your speech. Delivering a speech on a topic that conflicts with the audience’s attitudes and beliefs can prove to be particularly challenging, but not impossible. Recognize and validate their viewpoints honestly and respectfully while demonstrating the strengths of your arguments as well. (You will learn more about this in Chapter 10.) If you find from psychological analysis that the audience’s attitudes, values, and beliefs are in line with the speech’s content and viewpoint, try to reinforce their general attitude and your argument. Motivate them to take action on the issue, if it is appropriate and relevant to the speech topic.


Q7.06

Which of the following is an effective audience adaptation method used on an oppositional (unfavorable) audience?

A

Compromise the speech argument to accommodate the audience’s values.

B

Present a one-sided message by focusing on the strengths of your argument.

C

State the opposing view fairly, develop your own position on that viewpoint, and provide strong evidence that supports your main claims

D

Criticize the audience’s viewpoints by demonstrating its fallacies and shortcomings through supporting evidence and charismatic delivery.

Situational Analysis

Situational analysis considers the audience size, room size, and the physical setting. All of these factors will determine how you will deliver the speech. For example, if you know the room or area where the speech will take place lacks technological support, you should consider how this will affect the types of visual aids used to illustrate key points and ideas. Also observe the size of the room. If you’re delivering your speech in a large auditorium, you will most likely have to use a microphone. Ask the technological support what kind of microphone will be available the day of the speech, as this will affect the delivery of your speech. If the microphone is attached to the speaking lectern, you will need to remain stationary, but use hand gestures and meaningful eye contact to engage with the audience. However, if you are delivering in a room without a stationary microphone, feel free to move around a little because this adds energy to the speech and conveys control of the room. You need to be sure that you speak loud enough so that everyone in the room can hear the message.

To help with preparation, ask the room coordinator to give you access to the room before you deliver the speech. If possible, practice your speech in the actual room in advance. Having access to the physical setting of the speech will also increase your confidence about delivering the speech successfully. Knowing the audience size is also important. If you plan to distribute visual aids to everyone in the audience, you will need to know the number attending. If you’re delivering to your classmates, you may know the names of a few audience members. Therefore, you could consider calling on them to use as an example during your speech in a conversational demeanor. It is more difficult to connect with a large audience on a conversational level. Speeches targeting a larger audience tend to be more formal, but this is not to say that you cannot connect with the audience.

Considering the setting of your speech is vital. A valedictory speech would be very different from a eulogy or a formal class presentation. [11]​

Finally, it is important to consider the speech occasion. For example, a corporate/ business presentation is a much different occasion than a graduation speech. It’s probably not appropriate to discuss politics or very personal stories during a corporate presentation, as some feel private events and business should not mix. The tone of a commencement speech takes on a lively, celebratory vibe and tends to use descriptive, motivating language. Yet the tone of a corporate presentation may use more technical language as it relates to the business or company. Speech content is also determined by the occasion. Use examples that are appropriate for the speech situation (imagine how inappropriate it would be for the president to use catchy pop culture references during a speech that seeks to console victims of a recent tragedy).


Click here to see the script for Video 7.05.

Audience Adaptation Methods

After conducting audience analysis, gathering and interpreting the results, it is now time to use those insights to tailor the speech message. As mentioned earlier, audience adaptation is the process of crafting your speech to make it useful and effective for your audience. Speakers use audience analysis to determine what and how to deliver the speech in ways that resonate with the audience. Audience adaptation also involves adapting to situational or other factors that affect how listeners process the message while you’re delivering the speech. Essentially, we can divide audience adaptation into two categories: content adaptation and delivery adaptation.

Content Audience Adaptation

 Imagine you are preparing a speech about how parents who smoke around their children, in the car or inside the house, are guilty of child abuse. But you realize that the audience is college freshmen and sophomores, 18 to 20 years old, and almost no one in the room smokes. Stating your purpose as, “I hope to convince you all not to smoke around your kids,” would be totally ineffective – they don’t smoke and they don’t have kids! But you could start by applauding their healthy lifestyle, and asking the audience to recall when they were just kids – were they ever in a car with someone who smoked with the windows rolled up, making it difficult for them to breath? Or you could ask if they ever walked into the home of a heavy smoker and smelled the stench of cigarettes all through the house, and ask if they could imagine what the air in the house would do to someone breathing it every day, especially a young child.

As you can see, content audience adaptation involves careful consideration of the audience’s relevant experiences to the speech material.

Click here to see the script for Video 7.06.

1. Reference the Audience's Experiences, Interests, or Knowledge: When implementing this form of audience adaptation, you are trying to make the message more realistic, or in essence, humanizing the speech topic. This also helps the audience to truly connect with the topic. Listeners are more likely to be receptive to your message if it hits on their core attitudes, experiences, and values. If you use media clips to illustrate a point, use recent examples so that the adaptation is in line with the audience’s knowledge. College instructors will often try to do this when explaining complicated terms by using “real world” clips from news media or television shows to make academic concepts more understandable to students.

Visual aids are not the only way to successfully reference the audience’s interests. You can also verbally reference the audience’s interests by referring to hobbies or collective experiences. For example, imagine you are delivering a speech about stress-related diseases that disproportionately affect Americans and your audience is full of business executives. You could explain the contributing factors of stress-related illnesses by referencing the difficulties of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This is a challenging experience that many business executives can relate to, thus allowing them to stay engaged and connected with your topic. Another way of referencing the audience’s experiences is by localizing the topic. Mention familiar sites, such as local streets or stores, to illustrate the existence of your speech topic in the local area.

The following video shows Lupita Nyong’o, who won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, delivering a speech addressing unrealistic beauty standards in the entertainment industry and beyond. The goal of the speech was to empower the women in the audience, many of them previous or current actresses. She references the audience’s experiences, interests, and knowledge by connecting the topic with her own personal background. Pay close attention to how she adapts the speech content to the audience.


Click here to see the script for Video 7.07.

Q7.07

You conducted a survey gauging the audience’s general knowledge and attitudes about your speech topic. The results show that most of the audience is unfamiliar with the issue. How could you adapt the content to take into account the audience’s knowledge?

A

Present points clearly and define basic terms and concepts

B

Cover all aspects related to the speech topic

C

Assume the audience has basic knowledge about other topics related to the topic

D

Deliver the speech using advanced terms to elevate their understanding of the topic


2. Make comparisons to the familiar/use analogies: You do not want to assume that the audience is familiar with your topic, even if it appears so. You run the risk of alienating a few listeners and leaving them confused. In the event that the audience is familiar with your message, try to compare key concepts to familiar terms. Let’s say you want to discuss the bondage faced by victims of human trafficking. You could make an analogy with the bondage of West African slaves in the transatlantic slave trade. Slavery is a relatively familiar, historical topic to many audiences, and people understand that these individuals were forced to work under brutal conditions against their will. Similar circumstances take place in modern-day human trafficking and comparing it to historical forms of slavery will help the audience understand the severity.

Don't compare apples and oranges. [12]

You can also use comparisons when demonstrating the meaning of quantitative information. Although statistics are useful in summarizing a large amount of information in a nice, neat number, the overuse of statistics, or simply listing many statistics, can be overwhelming or even boring for the audience to process. They’ll become desensitized to the content and will not truly realize the important meaning behind the statistic. For example, instead of saying, “65% of college students have admitted to procrastinating in studying for an exam or writing a paper,” you may want to take a step further and illustrate the meaning of the statistic. You could say something to the extent, “That means approximately 20 of the 30 students in this classroom right now have probably procrastinated on an exam or writing a paper.” Furthermore, a statistic that claims “more than 70,000 animals are currently homeless in the state of Ohio” could be compared to the average holding capacity of a college football stadium. Analogies and comparisons make the content more meaningful by connecting the statistic to the audience’s experience or knowledge base.

Click here to see the script for Video 7.08.

3. Place the audience in real or novel situations: Suppose you asked an audience to imagine receiving an Amber Alert that a child they know has been abducted. This would be a powerful example of placing the audience in a realistic hypothetical situation.” Another example is describing a real-life event that is related to the topic. An informative speech about organ donations would benefit from including testimonials or personal narratives of people who have received the donations. This helps to place the audience in a realistic situation from the beneficiary's perspective. Whether realistic or hypothetical, transporting the audience into a narrative is yet another method of connecting them with the topic. Be sure to use storytelling devices, such as descriptive cues and clear language, in order to truly get the audience immersed in the situation. Sometimes novice speakers make the mistake of rushing through the story, or failing to use vocal pauses or stresses on keywords. Consequently, this takes away from its oratory impact.

Delivery Audience Adaptation

As discussed, audience adaptation goes beyond the content. Consider how audience adaptation may affect your speech delivery. Adapting to the audience’s expectations involves the opportunity to plan your delivery in advance as well as the ability to adapt on the spot, sometimes using audience involvement activities.

1. Adapting in Advance: Knowing that your advance audience analysis has given you a “mental picture” of your listeners – age, culture, size of audience, room situation, etc., -- you can plan and practice your delivery accordingly. Should you be loud and animated with this particular crowd and room, or more reserved in your delivery style? Ask any trial attorney the difference between making an argument to a jury, which could include a more impassioned approach, and presenting an argument to a judge, which would probably be more low-keyed and matter-of-fact in delivery.

2. Adapting in the Moment: Audience adaptation helps to steer away from delivering “over-rehearsed” or “canned” speeches. Although seemingly clear, these types of speeches tend to be very boring for the audience because the speaker is too focused on getting the content out there, instead of actively engaging with the listeners through adapting in the moment. Adapting your speech delivery to the audience’s interests and expectations will help energize your speech. Are you willing to change the course of the speech based upon the feedback you receive from the audience? Sometimes the speaking moment calls for this. In fact, one of the most famous speeches of all time actually went completely off script - Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The video clip below explains the story behind this speech and why Martin Luther King, Jr. abandoned his planned speaking notes and began to deliver extemporaneously.


Finally, pay close attention to the audience’s nonverbal feedback to your message. You’ll recall, from the discussion earlier in the chapter, that observational analysis includes reacting to audience feedback, or the direct and indirect messages listeners send to the speaker in response to the speech. Feedback is conveyed through facial expressions, eye contact, movement, verbal responses, and other factors. Surely you do not want your audience to become distracted or lose interest during your speech. Take a look at the figure below for some tips on adapting to observational analysis.


Q7.08

Sort the general steps in the process of audience analysis.

A

Revise speech approach and content to cater to the audience analysis results

B

Clarify speech objective and thesis

C

Examine the audience while delivering the speech

D

Select a specific goal for audience analysis method(s)

E

Interpret data/analysis results

F

Gather results

G

Select pre-speech audience analysis method(s)


Summary 

After reading this chapter, you now realize the importance of understanding and engaging with your audience. The audience serves an essential role in the communication process, since the speech would not be created or delivered if not for the audience. Remember that audience analysis is the process of examining your listeners based upon their attitudes, demographics, values, knowledge, and experiences. There are a variety of ways to conduct audience analysis such as performing a demographic, psychological, or situational analysis. A combination of all of those analyses can help you thoroughly understand your listeners. Audience adaptation is the process of modifying your content and delivery to make it more relatable to the listeners so that you can accomplish your speech goals. Now you are equipped with the proper tools to deliver an audience-centric speech. 

End of Chapter Checklist

After reading this chapter, you should be able to say to yourself:

  • I know how to be an audience-centered speaker
  •  I understand the process of audience analysis and audience adaptation
  • I can identify and perform the different methods and techniques of audience analysis and audience adaptation
  • I understand the importance of examining the audience before delivering a speech
  • I can make speech content meaningful to listeners by adapting the message to the audience’s attitudes, interests, and experiences
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Video Scripts

Video 7.01a

Hi my name is ________. I’m here to speak about the history of my favorite sport, soccer in the United States. I know many people in this country do not like soccer as much as I do. Sports like football, baseball and basketball are probably considered the favorites for many Americans.

Pauses for a 2-3 seconds, continues to look at manuscript/notecards instead of the audience. In my opinion, this is largely due to the history of soccer in the United States. The American Soccer League was founded in the early 1920s. It is considered the first professional soccer league in the United States.  

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.01b

Lionel Messi, Pele, Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gerd Muller (vocal pause between each name). To some of you in the audience, these are unfamiliar names. But to the rest of the world, these names evoke an image of sports royalty. The men I just mentioned to you are considered some of the best players in the game of soccer – or as the rest of the world calls the sport-football.

Quickly glances at manuscript, then resumes eye contact with the audience.

Now I think it’s safe to assume that it would be easy for some of you in the audience to name a few famous football, baseball, or basketball players. That alone raises the question of why does soccer face such unpopularity in our country when compared to other sports? The answer lies in the history of soccer in the United States. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.02

Based on the results from my audience analysis survey, 39% of the people in this room know someone who owns or has owned a gun. Now I would like for you to think of the person you thought of when completing the survey. Would you consider this person mature? Responsible? Law-abiding? Is he or she over the age of 21?

If you answered yes to any of the questions I just asked you, it comes as no surprise to me. According to a recent national survey, most gun owners fit this description—they are not criminals, but rather law-abiding citizens who are exercising their right to own a gun. Yet, the recent creation of stricter laws against gun ownership is making it more and more difficult for people to responsibly own a gun. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.03

Many of us in this room were born between 1992-1996. We can recall watching television shows as children such as Even Stevens, Pokemon, SpongeBob SquarePants, or even The PowerPuff Girls. These shows were largely considered family-friendly and suitable for children. Now, there is an increasing concern about the appropriateness of children’s television shows. Some believe that television shows targeting children are too “adult-like”—from the sexualization of young girls to the violent portrayal of young boys, parents are increasingly holding television networks accountable, demanding a more conscious approach in how television content is created for children.  

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.04

I see there are many women in the room. Remember when you used to “plan” your dream wedding as a little girl or a teenager (or maybe even now). You know, you thought of the wedding color schemes, who you would choose as your bridesmaids, the wedding theme, and of course, your prince charming.

Nowadays, the concept of marriage has changed drastically compared to what it meant in the 1950s and 1960s. People of “marrying age” (ages 22-35) are getting married later in life, which means many of the women in this room will have to wait a little longer for their dream wedding to happen. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.05

It is an honor to be able to speak to my peers and administrators this afternoon. When I ran for vice president of student government, I had no idea what was in store for me. Yet, what remained constant was my sincere interest in making a fundamental difference in the experiences of students here at this university. Now I say with an immense sense of humility and pleasure that I have just realized my dream by being elected vice president of student government.  Your support has been overwhelming and very much appreciated.

The road ahead will not always be easy. Working to make a difference has its fair share of professional and personal challenges for anyone who holds a political position. But that will not discourage me from representing my peers and being their resilient voice on campus in the future. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.06

It’s the beginning of an ordinary weekday morning—the start of yet another hectic morning routine. Upon the sound of your phone alarm, you rise from your bed and go to your daughter’s room. When you open the door, you notice that the bed sheets are pulled back and your daughter is nowhere to be found.

You look in the bathroom, living room, and even your room yet you still cannot locate your daughter. Panic starts to rush in as you think the unimaginable — “she’s missing. She just vanished!” That very feeling is what most parents hope to never experience.  

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.07

In my last point, I briefly mentioned some of the contributing factors of stress among young adults. Indeed, academic pressure is one of the major causes of stress in college students. Since many of us in this classroom are in fact college students, we can relate to the stress that comes along with studying for a major exam. We try to pull an all-nighter and cram as much information in as possible to receive that A. Many of us have been told that, “it’s part of the college experience.” But according to a recent study conducted by the National Alliance of Mental Illness, stress levels among adults between the ages of 18-22 have elevated substantially in the past 20 years. This study points to the urgency of the issue and debunks the notion that this stress is benign. 

Click here to return to video.


Video 7.08

Today, I’m here to share with you all why you should consider traveling abroad. Now to begin, I want to share an interesting statistic with you. Although an American passport is considered one of the most valuable “pieces of paper”, only 20% of Americans traveled abroad in 2014 as reported by the International Business Times.

If we were to use these three as a representation of this statistic, all three of them have passports to travel, but one of them has never traveled abroad. 

Click here to return to video.


Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, USAF in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of Robert Scoble under CC BY 2.0.

[3] Image courtesy of Michael Vadon under CC BY 2.0.

[4] Image courtesy of Glowman in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of BlueOlive in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões CC BY 2.0.

[7] Image courtesy of OpenClipartVectors in the Public Domain.

[8] Image courtesy of Unsplash in the Public Domain.

[9] Image courtesy of Geralt in the Public Domain.

[10] Image courtesy of Tanya Habjouqa under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

[11] Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[12] Image courtesy of Tumisu in the Public Domain.

Audience Analysis
Carefully considering the interests, attitudes, values, beliefs, and experiences of your audience.
Audience Adaptation
Process of creating and modifying your speech content so that it correlates to your audience’s interests, attitudes, and experiences.
Audience-centered
Appealing to the audience’s perceptions, needs, and expectations.
Observational Analysis
The easiest way to figure out your audience - watch and listen.
Questionnaire/Survey - noun
A series of questions that ask about the participant’s attitudes, behaviors, impressions of a subject, a person, or a product.
Focus Group
A small group of individuals who usually represent a particular demographic, social, or cultural background who come together to discuss a particular topic or product and report back their reactions and opinions.
Demographic - noun
Studying a population or a subgroup through the collection of personal data from individuals such as race, age, gender, religion, culture, education levels, and socio-economic levels.
Demographic Analysis
Using demographical data to analyze an audience or group.
Frame of Reference
The context in which an audience can relate to, recall, or understand your topic, your examples, or your experiences.
Culture - noun
A shared set of values, beliefs, customs, traditions, and norms.
Psychological Analysis`
Examining an audience’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and values in order to understand how they think, behave or react.
Situational Analysis
Considering the audience size, room size, and the physical setting of the speech as well as the occasion for the speech.
Content Adaptation
Adjusting the content of your speech in consideration of the audience’s relevant experiences to the speech material.