from: HOW TO REACH DIFFERENT AUDIENCES – published in 1993        SLIDES HERE






According to most professional communicators, audiences fall into four categories.


1)  PRIMARY (the one you directly communicate with verbally or in writing)


2) SECONDARY (which you indirectly communicate with through people in the Primary audience)


3) (KDM) Key Decision Makers (who is/are the most powerful members of the audience – the boss, for example, or the important customer, who makes the decisions.  The KDM will take up most of your eye contact in an oral presentation or in a meeting, and the one to whom a letter/report would be addressed.


[Communication Tip:  If you are writing a memo or report and you know that the KDM likes neatness and brevity or he likes lots of visuals, then it would be wise to cater to his preferences.  Orally, the advice is the same: if the KDM likes short meetings in the afternoon, then keep the meeting short and schedule it after lunch.]


4) GATEKEEPER, which can sometimes be the person who must review your message BEFORE it reaches your intended audience – for example, a secretary who accepts a call from you and you must speak with the secretary first.





After he knows his purpose, an effective communicator must center on the Audience element of the communication model to assist an individual or a group to understand information, motivate them to decide about some proposal or persuade them to take some action, for example. 

These communication objectives can only be reached when you


(a) recognize the type of audience your are addressing;

(b) analyze the psychological, social and intellectual factors that motivate them; and

(c) know how to use the different methods of reaching an audience that agrees or disagrees with your message.


Now, let us examine how these three elements can be used to communicate more effectively to groups.




First, after knowing your purpose, it is vital to analyze the audience you are communicating with.  If you know each member of the group individually, your job of communicating with them becomes easier because you are familiar with their backgrounds and can tailor your message according to the following criteria:



Rank (in company or business)





Work style



For example, you would have a different approach to the senior sales executive who has worked for the company 20 years, than you would to the new university graduate who joined the company five weeks ago; or when you speak with the professional who has a Ph.D. in computer engineering, and  the secretary who merely uses a computer . . . would you speak to both using the same language and information content?  Of course you would be polite and respectful with everyone, but the elements of the conversation and the objectives of the communication would be entirely different.


The point is, the more you know about the person, the better chance you have to reach him when he is a member of the group audience. 



This situation, though, is the ideal one. In the real business world, however, you mostly communicate with people you do not know personally – even in your own company!  As a result, you must analyze the audience as a group.  Remember as you conduct your analysis to include the same criteria in the list above plus the following which are used especially for groups:


Norms and Values

Rules of conduct


Standards of evaluation

Specialized knowledge or terms

Religious influences

Cultural values

Emotional/psychological elements


The Process in Brief:


1.    First, as you can see, the group analysis is related to social, psychological and intellectual areas of the person.  You can ask yourself “What do they know about my subject, and how do they feel about it?”  In other words, different groups of people are persuaded or motivated by different communication tactics and approaches. 


2.    Then, your task is to analyze the group according to the above list and determine the best strategy to effectively communicate your message to the audience.


3.    For example, accountants would be familiar with a specialized language, a set of similar standards and so on.  A group made up a diverse individuals from different professions (business, academic, scientific, sports people) would make your task more difficult.  However, the same principles should be applied.


4.    Next, you will have to think about the audience’s opinion about you and your oral presentation or written report.


5.    Lastly, remember that your Credibility will govern the group’s reaction to you and create a positive or negative attitude toward you and your message.  link to credibility here




In the situation, there are three possibilities: (1) the audience will agree with you (FRIENDLY); (2) the audience will disagree with you (HOSTILE); or (3) the audience will neither agree nor disagree (INDIFFERENT).  We will discuss the first two here, in terms of the oral report only, but this step by step method can be used for any channel of communication.

v   See the detailed diagrams and explanations on methods of message organization here




Structure your oral presentation by using a Direct Approach – Deductive Method of Development..  Communicate       

your top level idea/recommendation or conclusion first.  Then, present the supporting evidence and facts.  Supplement this with visuals or examples.  Finally, repeat your opening statement and conclude.




Structure your oral presentation using an Indirect Approach – Inductive Method of Development. Present your least disagreeable, non-controversial point first.  Another excellent method of beginning is to state a fact that you and your audience can easily agree upon (which is called a “buffer”).



One general tactic to adopt for any group when you are trying to convince them about the validity of your idea, for example, is to use the Cost-Benefit Analysis approach.  That is, analyze for your audience the cost-benefit (a) of the idea itself; and (b) for the audience to show the specific benefits your audience will gain from your idea/proposal.



An Example In Persuasion (Using Indirect Method)


 For example, you are trying to get the group to purchase new sinks for the hospital, but the group is hesitating to spend money now.  So, you could begin your presentation by saying “As we can all agree, and as scientific research shows, it is wise for everyone to be clean and tidy at all times to prevent disease.  The best way here at work is to use soap and water to clean our hands . . .” and then enter into your persuasive presentation.


Next, it is effective to present rejected ideas that will not work or are not acceptable or suitable to the group. 


Continuing the example above, you would say “We talked with all the available distributors of sinks in Saudi Arabia and we rejected sinks X, Y, and Z because they are too expensive.  We do not want to spend our money for no good reason on equipment that we need . . . .  We also rejected the lowest priced sinks because their quality and durability are inadequate for our high standards.


At this point you should have their respect and attention (using words like “spending our money for no good reason” and “our high standards”).


Following this, you can present your strongest evidence to support your proposal and win the group’s approval.  Then, re-state your conclusions or recommendations to the group by showing the benefits that will come from agreeing with your proposal.



In conclusion, organizing the ideas you present will help you to be more effective and successful with any type of group.  Depending on the group’s members, you should remember to analyze their characteristics and know how to reach them so that your message is the one they accept and agree with.  In this way, you will be a success in business communication and a success in business itself.