How to know what your audience wants from you.

How to know what your audience wants from you.

"The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.” - Lilly Walters

The single biggest sin any speaker can commit is to forget about their audience.

That’s why the quote accompanying this blog from Lily Walters, executive director of Walters International Speakers Bureau and author of Speak & Grow Rich, offers aspiring speaker her cautionary advice.

  • Stay audience-centric.
  • Don’t get lost in your moment on stage by thinking the event is all about you.
  • Every speaking opportunity begins and ends with giving the audience what they expect.

“How is it possible to know what my audience expects from me, without being able to ask everyone in my audience?”

For so many speakers, the answer to this question is a major concern.

Is it possible to know what every member of your audience is expecting from you before your speak?


The Audience’s Expectation Hierarchy

Several years ago, I developed The Audience’s Expectation Hierarchy (you can download a copy from the link below) to assist my clients in learning how they should develop audience-centric content for their speeches. Every audience, regardless of demographic composition, has specific expectations. The most expedient a speaker is in fulfilling these expectations the higher the level of integration an audience will have with the speaker’s content and objective. The Audience’s Expectation Hierarchy offers a very comprehensive, easy to follow strategy for making the fastest and most complete connection with your audience.

WIIFM – The world’s most popular station

The base level of The Audience’s Expectation Hierarchy addresses the most primal need of an audience; their “skin in the game” value.

Imagine how confident you would be if you know, even before you speak, what every audience member is thinking. Well you can. It’s simple. “What’s in it for me!?”

It’s not that audience members are ego-centric, but they do want their needs satisfied. So, from a listener’s perspective they need to know what they might gain from listening to you in return for their time and attention investment. I call it “getting a bang for their butt”. Many speakers think the more you hold out the drama of your main point, the more the audience will stay engaged. You can do this to a point, but whatever you do it had better impart some indication of the promise to come. Otherwise, you’ll lose them.

So, answer the WIIFM question by telling them what they will have to gain as an audience member. You might say something like this, “Before we finish here today, you will have a strategy for living your life with more purpose, persistence and fulfilling promise than when you came in the room.” This will let them know “what’s in it for them” if they make the commitment to stay with you.

Follow the Blueprint

Each succeeding level of the hierarchy fulfills another need the audience has thereby increasing their engagement with your content and you as a speaker.

  • Level 1: What is this all about?
    Here’s your chance to set the stage for the point you want to make by clearly stating it. “Today I am going to share with you a fundamental strategy for increasing your success potential through intention.”
  • Level 2: Why should I listen to you?
    Here’s the right time to establish your credentials and authority on your content. No matter who you are, you need to make them feel you are worthy of their attention and energy.
  • Level 3: How will this affect my life or livelihood?
    In speaking circles we call this proximity and impact. If it doesn’t affect them, there will be no urgency behind their engaging with you or your content.
  • Level 4: Is this information the most current; quoted and cited accurately?
    It is your responsibility as a thought leader and speaker to make sure your content is well researched, quoted and cited accurately and absolutely up to date. To misinform is to mistreat your audience. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster.
  • Level 5: Is there an action I can take now?
    So many speakers get their audiences all worked up and rearing to go, but then just leave them hanging there with no actionable steps to take. Communication is all about information exchanged to create changes of knowledge, mindset and behavior. Telling them what they can do with your content to improve their lives will endear them to you.
  • Level 6: What result can I expect?
    It’s OK to establish an expectation for your audience based on the content you have provided and the recommended actions you have offered. Helping them see real possibilities at the end of their journey is a big part of getting them to take the first step.

Becoming an audience-centric speaker requires a lot of discipline and intention. Remember Lily Walters advice and follow the steps I’ve laid out in The Audience Expectation Hierarchy. If you do you will be an engaging speaker every time while enjoying the thrill of Speaking Success will bring.

Now that you know what your audience wants from you please share this blog with a friend or colleague. As always, your comments and suggestions are delightfully welcome in the comments section below.

To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz