There we were, surrounded by about 250 teenagers. Excitement filled the air and hearts anxiously awaited the life-changing words that were about to flow from the guest speaker’s lips. The band had just finished playing and all eyes were on the stage. Applause broke the silence as he stepped up to the mic. He stood there for a moment, waiting for a pause in the commotion and with a whisper, he quieted the room.
And then he began to give a long-drawn-out and very monotone dissertation on the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. All I could think was, somebody…please stop him. Don’t get me wrong – the message was phenomenal. He left us with points to ponder as he carefully and accurately used scripture to support his thesis. Very deep, life-changing stuff.
The only problem was he had prepared a message for seminary students, not a youth group. His content would have been perfect for those who were in their final year of seminary. His delivery would have been fine in a lecture hall. But a bunch of teenage students who had just been challenged to be sold out to the Living God and had just experienced an awesome Christian band bring down the house were looking for a message that would drive it all home. One that would bring them face to face with who they were and point them to who they needed to become…who they could become if they would just let Christ take hold of their lives.
You see, if you’re a speaker, a teacher or a communicator you must know there is one rule that cannot be broken – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! Whether you’re speaking to one or one million…know who you’re speaking to.
You may have the opportunity to speak to a diverse group of women, but they have one thing in common…they are women. If you’re asked to speak at youth event or a gathering geared for 20 somethings, you don’t want to talk about eight tracks and vcr’s.
We organize an annual pastors’ conference for Costa Rica and invite quite a few speakers to pour their hearts and lives into those who pour their lives into their towns and villages. One of the primary words of wisdom we share with our speakers is, know your audience. They’re pastors, pastors’ wives and ministry leaders. They come to our conferences for biblical training, tools for their spiritual tool boxes and encouragement. We even give them the theme of our conference and the topics we’d like them to speak on. Their Central American culture is different than ours. Stories that will resonate with meaning in the states won’t make a lick of sense in a third world country. It doesn’t matter if your point is profound if nobody gets it.
Knowing your audience means you carefully craft your message based on the following facts:
1. What’s the gender of my audience? (based on the greatest ratio)
2. What’s the age of my audience? (based on the greatest ratio)
3. What’s the affiliation or dynamics (spiritual, business, political, informal, formal) of my
4. What are some basic needs they have or challenges they face?
5. How can I meet them where they are and impact their lives?
6. What should my word choice be based on the above information?
7. What illustrations can I use that will impact my audience based on the information above?
8. What should I refrain from saying so as not to offend and hamper my effectiveness?
9. What research should I do to get to know them more before I develop my message?
10. How can I pray for them before I ever stand behind the mic?
I realize some people struggle with the concept of “being relevant.” But Jesus was our ultimate example of Someone who made a difference in peoples’ lives by speaking to them where they were. If they were familiar with farming, He talked about the fields that were white for harvest. If they were fishermen, He told them He would make them fishers of men. It made sense to them. They got it. And they never forgot it.
If you’re a communicator and you want your messages to be unforgettable, know your audience, and speak to them where they are.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Did this help you at all? I’d love to hear from you!
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