Imagine yourself walking with a good friend. You are telling this person about something personal, maybe looking for support or suggestion. You spill everything and get an awkward silence. So, you look to your friend only to discover the face of a complete stranger…who is looking at you, confused. How do you feel at that moment?
Remember that feeling. This is what happens when we do not know who our audience is (or where they are) before doing any number of things in our lives. Not just in our writing or designs, but also in many life situations – like going to a job interview.
Guest speaker, Jennifer Spencer, came to campus recently and spoke to us about dressing appropriately for an interview. She explained that we should research and understand the culture of the organization before the interview. Walking into an interview with an organization that is relaxed and casual, while wearing a three-piece suit is going to be awkward for us. It will also tell our audience (the potential employer) that we did not do our research.
Equally awkward is that moment when you send an email, poster, news release or even present a speech without analyzing who your audience members are, what they know and what their attitudes are toward your content. The people receiving your information could have less information than you thought they did, creating confusion. Or the readers could have more understanding of your product, service or topic and it will seem as if you are talking down to them.
The bottom line is that in all things professional, it is important to take the time to know your audience members and what they know about your content. Know where they are mentally; ask what are their attitudes toward your content? What do they already know or not know? Know what the culture is; ask what should you wear to that interview?
And, finally, know that the person you intend to tell your life story to is the person you actually wanted to hear it.