For many reasons, and on many occasions, you may need to consider the way you’ll set about engaging your listeners.

As one example: at the start of each term, you may reflect on what worked, and what didn’t work, as you delivered your lectures to your students. Perhaps you’ve been invited to speak to a community group that wants to learn more about your area of expertise, and you’re concerned about presenting your material in a way that’s relevant to their particular interests, while also taking their current level of knowledge into account. Or, you may be scheduled to present a research paper during a conference session attended by your colleagues and peers, and you want to be sure you’re communicating in a clear, cogent, and professional manner.

In each situation, your audience has a different level of experience with and interest in your topic, as well as a different reason for attending your presentation. Therefore, if you are developing a new talk, you may want to consider (or reconsider) the methods you use to engage the particular audience to whom that talk will be delivered.

In SPEAK 2authors Rudolph F. Verderber, Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber present a series of six questions that you can use as you develop a talk for a particular audience, be it comprised of students, colleagues, community members, or others. These questions, along with their additional suggestions as we’ve presented them below, can help you shape your material to suit to your particular speaking situation.

 

1. What is my audience’s initial disposition toward my topic?

  • What can I do to enhance audience interest?

 

2. What common ground do audience members share with one another and with me?

  • How and where can I use personal pronouns, rhetorical questions, and common experiences to enhance the perception of common ground?

 

3. How relevant will the audience find this material?

  • How can I demonstrate that the material is timely, proximate, and has personal impact for audience members?

 

4. What can I do to enhance my credibility?

  • How did I develop my expertise on this topic, and how can I share that with the audience?
  • How can I demonstrate my trustworthiness as I speak?
  • What will I do to help the audience perceive me as personable?

 

5. How can I make it easier for audience members to comprehend and remember the information?

  • What types of material can I use to appeal to different learning style preferences?
  • What key terms will I need to define?
  • What new concepts might I develop with vivid language and examples?
  • What new ideas might I want to compare to ones the audience is already familiar with?

 

6. What language or cultural differences do audience members have with one another and with me?

  • If I will be speaking in a second language, how will I increase the likelihood that the audience will understand me?
  • What cultural differences do I need to be sensitive to, and what culturally appropriate material might I search for and use? (Verderber et al., 76)

 

Reference: Verderber, Rudolph F., Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber. 2015. SPEAK 2. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

© 2015 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved.

 

What’s your secret to engaging your listeners? Share your insights in the comments section below.