One of the most critical public speaking tips is to understand your audience. Do your homework by asking the organizers of the events for a breakdown of the audience in terms of gender, age, interest and knowledge levels.

Even if you have spoken at similar events before, do not take a chance on being able to presume who your audience may be.

A recent Flash Developer conference held in Minneapolis made huge waves in the computer community in the USA, spilling over into the rest of the world. This particular conference is called Flashbelt. The name of the event provides a clue as to the type of person who might be attending, as it is held in the bible belt of the USA.

Taking this into account, a speaker from England got it wrong when he didn’t follow one of the most important public speaking tips. He spent his hour discussing rather sexist and lewd content under the topic of graphic design, which did not go down well at all with the audience, sponsors of the event, other speakers and the broader public.

Under normal circumstances, this particular speaker is extremely popular at other Flash conferences and has been able to get away with his sexually explicit images and other bizarre stage activities. The audience has perceived this to be entertaining rather than below the belt.

Except for the audience in Minneapolis. Here there were people from the same field, same computer community, same interest group and discipline. However, the event is being held in a religious area and the normal audience members coming from the immediate area took objection. To the embarrassment of the event organizers, the objections were very intense.

This is a prime example of how important it is to ensure that you’re aware of this public speaking tip – knowing who your audience is. You may imagine that you are speaking to the same kind of people that you have spoken to before.

In this instance, one would imagine the event organizers should have sent out a warning that speakers should show some sensitivity towards their audience. As penalty for this blunder, this particular speaker is not on the lineup of the next big Flash conference in the UK.

Do not presume you know your audience. Make sure you find out as much as possible about your audience, their likes and dislikes, their beliefs and their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It is well worth doing this kind of research.

Once you have established the profile of your audience in your mind, you will find it easier to prepare your content to be appropriate to these listeners. It is up to you as speaker to ensure that you do not offend or alienate your audience.

This does not mean that you should not challenge your audience to new thinking, if the situation requires it. What it does mean is that you present your material in a way that still makes people think without offending them. This is one of the public speaking tips that must be followed at all times.

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