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Understanding your audience


Understanding your audience

You may not be aware of it, but we all present information in different ways at different times. Maybe you give your close friends more details when telling a story, or explain an idea more slowly and with simpler examples when talking to a child. You might even switch languages or dialects when communicating with certain people in your life.

Becoming aware of the ways that we use language and structure our ideas gives us the power to be more intentional with our communication. And when we understand our audience, we can choose ways of communicating that will best convey our ideas to our listeners.

Read on to learn more about audience characteristics and explore examples of information prepared for different audiences.

Audience characteristics

There are several audience characteristics to consider when planning your spoken and written communication. These attributes can help you decide the type of language and vocabulary you might use, which examples you provide, the level of formality, and even whether the information is better conveyed in a spoken or written format.

Consider what kind of education your audience is likely to have had. Younger people will have had less education, and therefore might need additional explanations with simpler examples and vocabulary. They might also understand better if they are given information verbally, particularly if they are beginning readers.

Education levels among adults vary, so if you are uncertain about who might be part of your audience, consider tailoring your language toward a high school level and utilising examples that rely on common knowledge.


The age of those in your audience will affect the examples that you use to make your point. Younger people will be less likely to recognise popular culture references from before they were born, and similarly, older members of your audience might not be connected to the youth culture of today. In spoken presentations, people of different generations might also expect different levels of formality. Tone of voice, facial expressions, and other body language will likely vary based on the age of the audience.

Different cultures have different expectations for the way information is shared. In some cultures, reading from a prepared script during a presentation is considered stilted, while in others, speaking without a written script is a sign of being unprepared. If your aim is for people to connect personally with what you are telling them, you'll also need to make sure you are using examples that are culturally relevant.

The language background of your audience, like education level, will affect your vocabulary choices. If your language or accent might be challenging for your audience, you’ll want to use common, everyday vocabulary and keep your sentences short. In a spoken presentation, you can also slow down your pace for better understanding.

The level of familiarity that your audience already has with your topic will have a large effect on how you present your information. Most people in your field might know certain common terms and concepts, and those won't need to be explained. If the topic of your communication will be completely new to your audience, however, you'll need to explain concepts in more detail. You might want to limit technical language, or remove it altogether, if it's not an important part of the information you’re sharing.

Explore examples

The slides below show how the same information about climate change and the Southern Ocean might be adapted for a different audience. The first text has been designed for adults who are interested in and have some knowledge of scientific principles, but are not scientists themselves. In the second text, the language, explanations and examples have been adjusted to suit an audience of primary school students.

Attribution: This resource has been adapted from: Southern Ocean Sentinel. Authored by: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. License: CC BY: Attribution 4.0