Resource 9: Adapting to Audiences and Navigating Power Dynamics


Adapting to Audiences and Navigating Power Dynamics

This guide will help you figure out what to consider and observe when adapting to different audiences, who may or may not immediately agree with your point of view. Use only as a starting point – in real life, you may face situations that do not immediately make sense or are not on this list, so you may have to do some research or ask people what situations they’ve encountered!

  • Who is your audience?
    • What type and level of decision-making are they involved in?
    • What is their top priority?
  • What do they already know?
    • What do they think they know about you?
    • What background knowledge do they have on this topic?
    • What past experiences have they had with this topic?
    • How are their lives different or similar to yours?
  • What do they want to know?
    • What are they worried about?
    • What are they excited about?
    • What motivates them?
  • What keeps their attention?
    • What level of detail interests them?
    • What level of detail do they need to be persuaded?
    • Which are they more likely to believe: research and data or personal experiences told through stories?
    • What helps them learn (examples, slides, visuals)?
During your remarks, observe:
  • Signs of power (i.e. who people look at for approval, how people are seated, who speaks the most, who controls the conversation)
  • Affirmative and interested behavior (i.e. nods, smiles, note-taking, leaning forward, direct eye contact, relaxed body language)
  • Signs of confusion (i.e. furrowed brow, scowls, looking around at others, stiff and uncomfortable body language)
  • Signs of disinterest (i.e. vacant eyes, looking at phone or clock)
  • Type of follow up (i.e. whether people respond with interested follow up or changing the subject)
  • Topics for follow up (i.e. what topics people focus on during any follow-up (i.e. are they getting caught up on particular details, do they need more clarity, are they exploring possibilities and ideas)
During your remarks, adjust:
  • Restate relevance and credibility. Be clear about why your content is relevant to them and why you know what you’re talking about.
  • Take the time to teach, without being condescending. Offer more examples, explain what they don’t already know, and define terms.
  • Modify your time. Spend more time on something of interest and move on more quickly when losing attention. Pose rhetorical questions when you feel you are losing them.
  • Build background. Make comparisons to something they know and build upon their prior knowledge. Highlight stories and examples that are unexpected, surprising, and different from their experiences.
  • Revisit top priorities. Address their questions and concerns before they even mention them, based on what you know they care about.
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