Speech Study Guide

The education of an audience can also tell a speaker many things. The level of education of an audience affects the background information the audience may have on a given topic and their level of sophistication with that knowledge. In addition, the education of an audience will indicate to the speaker how the audience will be able to intelligently evaluate the speech for the message the speech is trying to convey. An educated and well-informed audience member will evaluate the speaker’s argument using learned principles and the ability to apply the acquired knowledge before making a response to the speaker’s topic. Knowing the level of education of the audience will indicate to the speaker how sophisticated their speech needs to be and how intellectually in depth they should discuss their topic. Another aspect many speakers fail to take into account is the occupation and profession of their audience. Different occupations create differences in how an individual will grasp specific information. Every occupation invokes varying feelings about the world and each occupation has its own set of specific problems and values. An individual’s occupation may affect their perspective on what the most important and relevant issues are for them. If a speaker fails to anticipate and prepare for responses stemming from different occupational perspectives, than even a good, or a great idea, may be rejected. Finally, another demographic category that is crucial to take into account is the economic status of an audience, with the caveat that while there are generalities of groups of economic status there are individuals who do not fit the norm. Certain economic groups have certain interests, those of a higher economic status will not be interested in need based tuition assistance, while those of a lower status will not be interested in tax shelter programs. Available financial resources for listeners may help to determine their response to an idea or proposal involving money. A wise speaker will attempt to anticipate how a listener’s income may influence their receptivity to a topic while remembering that not everyone falls into the norm. No matter gender, orientation, socioeconomic status, or culture everyone faces stereotypes. Stereotypes are common assumptions about people of a particular group, and are often proven misguided and are nearly always harmful. Those of same-sex partnerships still face significant inequality in housing, rights, and adoption. An example of a common stereotype is that women and homosexual males are the only ones in fashion or nursing professions. Stereotypes are not the same as generalities. Generalities are generalizations made about a group of individuals based on observational facts and attributes. Generalizations are not meant to be harmful. A speaker cannot assume that a topic or issue only pertains to one group of people. Men are becoming increasingly more involved in “women’s issues” and vice versa. Understanding the audience given a specific location allows the speaker to hypothesize the preconceptions the audience members will have before the speech, how they will react during the speech, and how they will respond afterward. Once a speaker understands, at least conceptually, their audience, they are able to use such knowledge to focus on the effectiveness of their speech. Such tailoring of a speech does not stop at audience analysis, it continues with adapting a speech for a specific audience.


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