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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Know Your Audience

As professional people, regardless of our type of organization or our position in the organization, we communicate with numerous people both inside and outside of that organizatiaon. We communicate in a variety of ways, primarily:
  • In person.
  • Over the telephone.
  • Via email.

We must ensure that we exhibit situational awareness regardless of our type of communication because others judge us based on how we reach them (see posts: If you look bad and Email).

For instance, when we communicate, we need to think about our message, what we want to say, and how to express it. Not only do we need to consider the medium (like above), but we have to decide how to convey our points. Do we want to come across in a serious manner? Do we want to be clever or funny? What reaction do we want our audience to display? What do we want them to remember about our message or us after the communication is complete? Do we want to provide some type of take-away or follow-up communication after we are done?

Getting back to the title of this post, who is the audience? Are we communicating with superiors, peers, or subordinates? Are we sharing with a seasoned group or some fairly inexperienced people? Do they have a solid understanding of the setting (history, players, etc.) so they can properly frame what we're sharing?

It never ceases to amaze me how little preparation or follow-up we plan or budget for when we communicate. Often we just begin speaking (no notes) or typing (no outline) and hope (or worse, expect) our audience will miraculously understand our thoughts exactly as we intended.

As leaders, we represent our organization, our supervisors and our team. It would be bad enough if we gave others a poor impression of us, personally, let alone radiating that poor impression so it tainted the audience against those we try so hard to serve and support.

Do you have examples of how knowing your audience can have positive effects, as well as how the failure to take our audience into account can have unwanted consequences?

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