Being in the Kelley School of Business, I have heard one vital concept — put your audience first — over and over again. What seems like a common-sense suggestion tends to go out the window the minute students begin creating a class presentation, but for me it has been a core idea that I have taken with me into most of my experiences in college.
You must remember to put your audience first.
Like most fundamental concepts, putting your audience first is one that can be used by most people whether or not they are operating in business.
In the business school, we are taught to put our audience first primarily when communicating information to others.
When presenting, we are supposed to give information and use language based on what our audience does and doesn’t know and make the point of the presentation to tell them what information they need, how what we are presenting will affect them and why they don’t have to be afraid that what we are presenting them will fail or be inaccurate.
Again, this seems like a fairly simple and “duh” kind of suggestion, but one that is not often been followed in the classes I have been in.
I’ve seen presenters tell businesses basic background information about that business’ history and operations or basic facts and statistics about their industry and what that industry does.
So the instructors and professors try and drill it in our heads once again. When you communicate, do so based on what your audience needs to hear. Do not include information that they are already acquainted with or would know based off their position.
This concept can translate to daily life, whether in one-on-one conversation or to a wider audience. We live in a world where as much as 80 percent of our day is spent in some form of communication, and the top skill employers look for when hiring is ability to communicate.
Communication may be the most important skill a person can have, and according to John Maxwell, a leading thinker in the world of leadership and communication, focusing on the other, whether one on one or in a group, is the best way to communicate with them.
In his book, John Maxwell has said, “If I had to pick a first rule of communication—the one practice above all others that opens the door to connection with others—it would be to look for common ground.”
In other words, keep your audience in mind when crafting your message.
He goes on to say “in the first several years of my career as a leader and speaker, my focus was too much on myself. And only when I started to realize that connecting is all about others did I start to improve.”
Maxwell knows the value of audience orientation.
Communication can help improve relationships and open minds, or it can create division and misunderstanding. If you want to be a better communicator, focus on whom you’re communicating with.
Ask yourself what they need to hear, what they already know, what they may be thinking and how you can cater what you say to who they are.