3 lessons on audience understanding

The 4 speakers sitting on chairs in front of a screen facing the audience

This tweet from Natasha Roe at Red Pencil (shown below) about remembering your audience when you are communicating really struck a chord with me:

A clear understanding of the audiences you want to connect with is vital for effective communication. Knowing what interests, motivates and engages them will help you to find common ground and the ‘hook’ to draw them in.

Over the past week I have been lucky enough to attend a trio of interesting and inspiring events. Each one demonstrated in its own way the importance of putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes.

So what can we learn from these events?

1. Connect Reading forum on neuro-diversity in the workplace
Connect Reading is a fantastic local organisation, which brings together businesses and charities to work together for the benefit of the town we live in. The members forum is an opportunity to meet up, learn from some great speakers and build connections.

The thread running through each of the speakers’ presentations was about the need for understanding, tolerance and acceptance of neuro-diversity. Some of the ways in which our organisations and communications operate simply do not make sense to those who have a different understanding of the world.

One speaker gave the example of a brilliant young man with autism who had almost missed out on being offered a job because he had misinterpreted the question ‘why do you want to work at EY Reading?’ as being about geography. Thankfully, this misunderstanding was corrected, he demonstrated why he cared about the business and is now a rising star at the company. Not only did he almost miss out, so did the company.

Communications lesson: reaching out to and including a range of employees through communications and actions that they relate to is good for business as well as for individuals.

2. Bright Spot Consultants Breakfast Club
Bright Spot provides training, coaching and inspiration to help professional fundraisers raise more money. This first meeting of their consultants breakfast club was a chance for people working in this field to network and learn from each other. I have had a number of potential clients contact me recently about improving internal communication to support all employees to be ambassadors who contribute to fundraising.

Rob Woods from Bright Spot realised that people running their own businesses to support charities wanted the opportunity to talk to others in the same boat. He knew from conversations he was already having which topics came up most frequently; he knew he had information and ideas which helped. He took this understanding and used it to develop an event which achieved the outcome of support and discussion, but in a different way to one to one conversations.

Communications lesson: review communication activities which are already happening to understand what people want and need; when you choose a different channel, make sure that it also meets those needs.

3. Charity Meetup on internal communication
Dawn Newton created the fantastic Charity Meetups four years ago as networking and skills sharing events where making connections is fun. There is a different topic each time, a variety of speakers and some light-hearted networking fun.

One of the reasons I particularly enjoyed this month’s event was that I was one of the speakers and I got to wear a Madonna mic! Although this should in theory have made me feel like a glam pop star, in reality I was super-conscious of how I moved my head and may have looked a bit like a wooden puppet…

The 4 speakers sitting on chairs in front of a screen facing the audience
Photo thanks to: Marcus Jamieson-Pond, www.jampondphotography.com

The mic still added to the fun of sharing my most favourite topic – how to make internal comms as effective as possible – with like-minded souls looking for ways to improve at their organisation. There were 3 other fab speakers talking about aspects of internal comms at their organisations – Beth Murray from Facebook Workplace for Good, Judith Davey from The Advocacy Project and Natalie Peck from Citizens Advice.

Dawn had chosen internal comms as this month’s topic because she had carried out some research into the topics previous attendees wanted to talk about. The challenges of communicating internally came up in various ways and so this session was born.

Communication lesson: if you’re not sure what your audience wants to hear about, ask them.

I often find myself gently reminding clients that communication “isn’t about you, it’s about them”. From now on I’ll be suggesting they tap themselves on the shoulder too.

If you would like help putting yourself into your audiences’ shoes, please get in touch for a chat about how I could support you.

Until next time

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