Oral Communication

Considering your Audience

It is vital that presenters think about who is in their audience when preparing for and delivering their oral presentation. This sounds obvious but often we tend to focus on ourselves as the presenter, on what we already know, and what we think is interesting. To help you with this consider your experiences of being a member of the audience (you have probably spent more time in the audience than presenting anyway!). Think about :

  1. From the audience's perspective, what makes a successful presentation? List these characteristics and try to adopt them.
  2. From the audience's perspective, what makes an unsuccessful presentation? List these characteristics and try to avoid them.

Considering the audience and their expectations will help you to choose the appropriate approach (formal, informal, interactive, discursive), the structure and the content (the level of detail and complexity).

Questions to consider:

  • Who are the members of the audience and what do they do? (e.g. assessors, peers, employers)
  • What is the benefit to the audience of listening to your presentation?
  • What do they already know about the subject?
  • What is the relationship between yourself and the audience?
  • What interests your audience?
  • How will what you are going to say affect them? Will you shock or upset them?

How can you find out the answers to these questions?

A simple thing like asking the audience a question at the beginning (e.g. How many of you have experience of blogging?) and getting them to give a show of hands will allow you to quickly gauge their prior knowledge and their interests, encourage them to think about what you are saying and show them that you are interested in them!

Failure to consider your audience may result in them feeling the following:

  • Alienated – if you offend their value system.
  • Insulted – if you fail to recognise and acknowledge their existing knowledge and experience.
  • Confused – if you assume a level of knowledge or expertise that isn't there.
  • Bored – if you fail to relate to their needs.
  • Patronised– if you use an inappropriate style.
  • Frustrated – if they are not given the opportunity to question or contribute.

Watch and Learn

The video clips on the right hand side of the screen illustrate several of the points made above and the discussion points aim to support you in evaluating these examples and your own practice.

Follow the reading list and useful websites links for further suggestions



Brunel University (West London)

Asking the Audience Questions Directly

Engaging the Audience by Asking Questions

Relating your Material to the Audience