Successful home schooling communicators consider the audience who will read or hear the composition before they begin researching the topic. Think about how a speech on euthanasia might be received by each of these audiences:
- a few medical doctors who work at the local hospice
- a Sunday School class of 11 and 12 year old girls
- a funeral home director and his staff
- a group of state or federal legislators
- a gathering of elderly nursing home residents
- a convention of pharmaceutical reps
Obviously, each of these collective audiences would have a different perspective and perhaps a biased self-interest in advocating or outlawing euthanasia. No two audiences are ever the same. (My homeschooled speech students who compete in different regions of the country know this hard fact!) Excellent public speakers do their best to assess the audience in advance and tailor the message accordingly. If poor or unenlightened choices are made during the content phase, the message may be doomed no matter how brilliant the delivery of the homeschooled youngster. Failure to communicate ultimately rests with the speaker because the audience is always right.
Whether addressing a parent, a small group of friends, a few thousand newsletter subscribers, or an auditorium full of paid attendees, the home schooling speaker and writer is particularly challenged by this compound question:
Who is my audience, and how will I reach them?
Understanding the audience – who they are, how they think and feel, and what they need – is essential to effective communication. This concept applies to all ages and levels of expertise: from the little homeschooled boy who desperately wants another cookie to the grandparent who needs a ride to the pharmacy to the homeschool high school debater who hopes to persuade the judge to vote affirmative. Possible attitudes toward your appeal include:
- supportive (they agree with you)
- apathetic (they don’t care)
- doubtful (they’re not sure or have serious reservations)
- hostile (they are actively opposed)
- knowledgeable (they already know a great deal)
- unlearned (they know nothing about it)
- indifferent (the thought never occurred to them)
Knowing some key facts about the audience favorably impacts the message. The home schooling speech or essay can then be crafted in such a way that the ideas have personal meaning and relevance to your unique audience. People pay attention to ideas that compliment their own hopes, needs, and goals.
Savvy home schooling speakers and writers adjust the theme (invention), structure (arrangement), style, vocabulary, length, and delivery to each audience. If addressing a large, heterogeneous audience, more explicit syntax and background information is needed. If addressing a specialized niche (for instance, baseball players), specialized language (like earned run averages) can be used to illuminate.
What do the members of the audience have in common? Do you expect them to be good listeners? Can you estimate collective age, social status, ethnicity, education, and cultural background? Consult others who have spoken before similar audiences in the past, or check out any written records (bylaws, public minutes) that are available about the group. Will the surroundings such as lighting, acoustics, and distance impact their ability to favorably respond to you?
Communication is an exchange of information. The word exchange implies giving and taking. The homeschooled orator or writer gives three things: (1) a debatable idea, (2) the evidentiary proof, and (3) a call to action. The audience receives this offering and responds with verbal, nonverbal, and sometimes written feedback. Nothing is more deflating and discouraging to a homeschooled public speaker or writer than a tepid, unresponsive audience. To improve immediate feedback, consider adding novelty, humor, contrast, movement, suspense, and intensity to command attention. Above all, use your writing and speaking skills to tailor the message to the audience. Certainly, the audience has the right to disagree as in the case of the mom who refuses the second cookie, but if the audience doesn’t understand the idea, plea, argument, or information, somehow the author has failed to communicate. Although it’s hard home schooling work, effective communication rests primarily with the creator of the message because the audience is always right!