After selecting a topic and establishing both the general and specific purposes, speakers should turn their focus to the audience. Presenters might as well stay at home and converse with themselves in front of a mirror if they fail to take their audience into consideration when refining the message in preparation for delivery. Great communicators retain the integrity of their original message, but carefully tailor, shape, and mold that message to each audience’s unique wants and needs. Speakers who fail to connect with their audiences often do so because they cared more about how they looked and whether or not their audiences liked them.
“Care deeply about your audience.” Veteran speakers often give this piece of advice when asked to explain the number-one rule for effective public speaking. Unfortunately, many speeches prove ineffective because the speaker could not mindfully connect with the audience. Instead, they become self-focused and preoccupied with distractions such as, “How do I look?” or “Does everyone like me?” This self-focused approach can amplify existing anxieties and interfere with presenting successful communication. This rarely produces positive results. Caring deeply for the audience means making preparations in advance, staying mindfully present with the message and how it will connect with the audience.
Effective and powerful communicators have one goal: to create an audience-centered speech that adds value and meaning to the information presented by remaining mindful of what the audience members know about the topic and how they feel (attitudes, opinions, and beliefs) about it. To achieve this goal, speakers must, before every speech they deliver, analyze their audiences and adapt their communication to the results of that analysis. This process of analysis and adaptation, however, must never sacrifice the integrity of the original message. This explains why topic selection and initial planning come first in the process, for personal motivations to discuss this topic should not get overlooked.