Considering your audience is an important principle of effective communication.
This rule certainly applies to verbal communications, such as meetings and presentations. Indeed, it is important to consider your audience when exchanging information in-person or over a live video feed.
There are many best practices you can follow to help improve your communication and build trust with your targeted audience.
- maintaining eye contact
- paying attention to nonverbal signals
- watching facial expressions
- monitoring body language
- employing active listening
- strengthening your emotional intelligence
In short, you should try to become a good listener. Both verbal and nonverbal listening skills are an important part of effective communication.
For verbal communication, your ability to understand the other person or people is the first step in considering your audience. Predicting how a person will feel about or receive your message is one of the most effective communication skills you can develop.
This tenet of effective communication also applies to written business communications, such as emails, reports, and letters.
Why Am I Writing This Document?
We’ve likely all been asked to write an essay at some point. As students, we’re often trained to remember the purpose of the paper or assignment.
Keeping the purpose of your document top-of-mind helps to keep you on track. This approach can also help you stay on task when writing technical business communications.
The goal is to determine how to best express the message you wish to convey to your intended audience. As working professionals, your colleagues are busy and their time is valuable.
They will appreciate clear and concise communication.
With this in mind, everything you write for business purposes should meet these objectives:
- Your audience will be able to quickly understand your message
- Your readers will clearly understand the action you want them to take in response to your message
And that’s why it’s important to consider your audience in technical writing. It makes achieving the above objectives a lot easier.
Questions to Help Consider Your Audience
Here are a few important general questions to ask yourself when considering your audience.
- Who am I writing to?
- What do I want them to understand?
- What actions do I want them to take?
Depending on your document, you might want to ask additional questions about your audience. This is especially true when writing technical business communications, like engineering philosophies, scopes of work, or design basis memorandums.
Here are a few examples to consider when writing for a technical audience.
Does your audience have the same technical understanding as you?
Let’s pretend you’re an electrical engineer writing for another electrical engineer. You’re probably safe to assume your audience will know most of the technical terms and acronyms you use.
But will your document be as clear to a reader who isn’t an electrical engineer? Will a general audience or other engineering disciplines understand the same highly specialized terminology? Unless you’re certain your readers will understand, consider defining your terms or avoiding overly technical language.
Does your audience have the same context?
It’s easy to forget that not everyone is part of the same team or work project. Will all your readers understand what you’re working on?
When you ask someone for information or help, don’t assume they know why you’re asking. Instead, consider that your audience might not understand and explain yourself briefly first. Providing a link or attachment for readers to explore further can also improve the effectiveness of your communication.
Does your audience have the same cultural background as you?
The modern workplace is diverse. Phrases and expressions that are common where you come from might be baffling to someone from a different background.
In particular, jokes that seem funny or harmless to you could be misunderstood or even offensive to others. When writing for a business audience, use humour sparingly and with caution. It is unlikely that the main objective of your business communication is to elicit a laugh.
Does your audience communicate as you do?
Everyone has his or her own style of communicating. Some people are “email people”. Other colleagues may prefer phone calls or face-to-face conversations.
The best way to consider your audience is to get to know your coworkers’ preferences and abide by them.