Communicating to Difficult Audiences

Quick Tips for Dealing with Difficult Audiences

  1. Build empathy ahead of time
  2. Know your subject inside and out
  3. Keep the focus on the presentation
  4. Assert and reassert
  5. Take control of Q and As
  6. Don’t take it personally — Even if it is

Let’s go a little deeper…

How do you communicate with your audience?

A savvy communications firm will advise its clients to use language that resonates with their audience. A company’s words will be just as important as its business plan or advertising budget, if not more so.

Businesses must employ a range of communication strategies designed for a variety of audiences, including customers, suppliers, and employees. But other groups will also impact a company’s success: the media, government agencies, community groups, and other stakeholders.

The fact is, communicating to difficult audiences can be challenging. But it’s crucial for businesses to get credit where credit is due. To take risks without fear of failure. And to truly connect with their communities. So how does a company communicate effectively—especially when its message might not fit in with the status quo?

A number of factors come into play. The type of business, for instance, will obviously have an effect on its brand. A software company, for example, might primarily use websites and social media to interact with customers. Meanwhile, a retailer could rely on printed catalogs or televised commercials to connect with its audience.

In some cases, a business’s greatest obstacles are outside forces—regulatory issues, for example. Fortunately, there are ways to communicate even with difficult audiences when faced with such challenges.

  • Find Out What Your Audience Is Thinking

Businesses must learn as much as possible about their stakeholders before trying to reach out to them. If a company has a history of poor relations with certain groups, it’s likely that these parties have grown comfortable with this arrangement. They might not be open to changing their opinion about the business—even when faced with overwhelming evidence to support a turnaround in how a company conducts its operations.

  • Know What Your Audience Wants and Needs

Another important step in communicating with difficult audiences is to think about what they want—and what you have to offer. Before trying to find common ground, for instance, it might be useful if both parties understood the company’s vision and goals. This way, everyone will be working off of the same set of facts when critically evaluating whether or not future interactions should take place.

  • Understand Your Audience’s History

To improve communication with all parties, it might be useful to get a sense of where each group is coming from—and how any past disagreements have impacted its current outlook on your business. It also helps to understand what makes this particular group tick—and why they would feel threatened or skeptical about your business.

  • Work on Building Trust

Finally, businesses should do their best to be open and honest with all of their stakeholders—and earn the groups’ trust in the process. When it comes to difficult audiences, establishing a sense of rapport or common ground can make communicating with them significantly more effective.

The communications firm will help its clients to target their audiences vis-à-vis language, tone and empathy. Clients will have the opportunity to see how various audiences are likely to receive information about them, which will help businesses fine-tune messaging for more optimal results.

How would you handle the audience if they are unresponsive?

  • Grabbing Attention
  • Walk around the room. Leave the podium and get down to the level of your audience members
  • Involve them in your story
  • Encourage participation
  • Focus on those who are paying attention
  • Research your audience
  • Start strong
  • Vary your tone and energy level
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

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