Read the Room: Understanding Your Audience

As a leader, you know that communication is key… but what good is communication if it’s not resonating with your audience? We’re all familiar with the age-old antidote “read the room”, particularly in times of miscommunication and tension. Whether you’re asking for a simple favor from a friend or promoting your products and services to a potential customer, understanding who you are speaking with is crucial in creating a mutual understanding and ultimately reaching whatever your end goal may be. In just about every facet of life, recognizing what motivates your audience is a sure way to pique their interest and desire to cooperate with you.

In business, the most impactful leaders attempt to comprehend the minds of their potential clients and customers as well as their colleagues to strategically meet them where they are. Keep the following questions in mind regarding your audience the next time you need to make an impactful connection with your listeners.

  1. What Motivates Them?
    What gets this person out of bed in the morning ready to take on a new day? What makes this person feel excited and empowered to do what they do? By getting your head wrapped around whatever these answers may be, you’re one step closer to understanding how what you’re offering can be tied into their desires and motivators.
  1. What Pains Them?
    Try to figure out what keeps this person up at night – their challenges, their worries, and even their fears on a professional as well as a personal level. These inner worries have an enormous impact on how people act and how willing they will be to hear you out. If you cannot help alleviate some of their pains and challenges, your purpose for the conversation will appear far less compelling.
  1. What Are Their Goals?
    Where do they see themselves in the future and how can you help them get there? The majority of individuals are inherently focused on their own goals and success rather than those of others. Tap into this inward focus and align your objectives with theirs and make this a mutually beneficial experience for both parties involved. Think about it – wouldn’t you be more likely to hear someone out that is showing an interest in helping you reach your goals?
  2. How Can You Help?
    This is the question that ties together everything else. Once you have a broader understanding of what motivates an individual or group – whether it’s their goals, fears, or a combination of all of the above – you will be able to initiate a more intentional and resonant conversation with them. Align your intentions with theirs. Offer a solution.

    Connecting with an audience requires you to take a quick step back from your internal motivations and show an interest in recognizing those around you.

“You need to understand other people – what they want, what they don’t want, their fears, hopes, dreams, and motivations.” Taking note of the mindsets of those around you is key to building trust, says Dr. Annie McKee, best-selling author of How to Be Happy at Work and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and that is ultimately the reason anything gets done. In short – build trust and common ground with those around you by making an effort to understand where they’re coming from. With this skill under your belt, your audience will be enticed to truly listen to what you have to say, thus sending you on your way to becoming the most influential leader you can be.