How to Identify Your Target Audience for Speeches

by Nadine Smith ; Updated September 26, 2017
Persuading your audience is more likely if you have already studied their needs and wants ahead of time.

Speeches succeed or fail based on your ability to reach target audiences. If your target audience is not interested in your topic or unable to understand your level of vocabulary, your speech will fall on deaf ears. Identifying your target audience increases the probability of speaking to a room full of captivated listeners. Identifying your target audience involves studying their demographics, characteristics, background, needs and wants ahead of time.

Identify the demographics of your audience. Demographics include age, gender, religious or ethnic background, profession and area of residence. All of these factors should influence what you present in your speech and how you present it. For example, if your target audience does not have a high level of education, refrain from using high-level vocabulary.

Recognize their probable beliefs and perspectives, given what you have researched about their demographic. For example, a primarily religious audience may espouse more conservative values. Consider how they would respond to the ideas you will present in your speech.

Contemplate their needs and wants. Ask yourself why they will be there and what they want out of the situation you are addressing. Consider what ideas they might expect you to present and what ideas they might not find acceptable.

Determine any obstacles in your audience coming to your point of view. Consider what scepticism they might harbor about the subject, or even about you yourself. For example, sometimes people possess a deep mistrust of politicians. Perhaps your speech aims to explain an unpopular decision by your organization or company, and your audience is already set against you. Overcome these roadblocks by trying to see their point of view.


  • Design a survey or questionnaire to determine your target audience’s characteristics more specifically. You can also interview a sampling from your audience to get a sense of where they are coming from.

About the Author

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.

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