Since the audience is such an important factor in determining many aspects of writing and presenting, it is crucial for you to try to establish who your audience is. Writers/presenters seldom know their audience personally so it can seem difficult to be confident that the text communicates clearly.

The more you get to know your audience, the more efficient you can be in your writing/presenting. While the term ’writing’ (or ’presenting’) encompasses many aspects, a large part is communicating a packet of specific information to an intended audience. This information needs to be packaged in a way the audience can interpret. From this perspective, all writing/presenting is directed towards an audience and you must direct your attention to them.

The following simple questions can help you define what kind of audience you are communicating to/for:

Who will be reading/listening? 

Will your readers/listeners be executives, administrative personnel, fellow students, supervisors, or colleagues?

What kind of prior knowledge does that reader/listener have?

Will your audience be from a technical or non-technical background? What terms and expressions can you assume they are already familiar with? Likewise, what concepts and terms likely need more explanation and clarification? What sort of educational background does your reader/listener have?

What does you audience need to know?

What information is most important to them? Are they more interested in your results or in how you got your results?

Why will your audience read the text/why will they listen to the presentation? 

Readers and listeners most often read texts/listen to presentations respectively for a specific purpose. This might initially be to determine whether  what you are communicating is relevant to them and worthwhile reading/listening to, hence why it is important that your information has a clear purpose. The more informed you are about why the audience will potentially read your text/listen to your speech, the better able you will be to structure your information in a way that fulfills your audience’s needs.

What does your audience expect of the text or information?

What format are they most familiar with? Is there a particular structure that is commonly accepted as good practice for your type of writing/presenting?

How will your audience use the information in you communicate to them?

Try visualizing what your audience will do once they have received the information. For example, a supervisor would perhaps simply make a note of an assignment being completed successfully, while if your audience is in a managerial position, it is reasonable to expect action. A colleague might use the information in a related project or in a process further down the line of a production plant, thus needing to be able to access information quickly and regularly in the document. If the audience comes from outside the organisation, these readers/listeners might very well be looking for information on new theories or technologies that they might try to introduce to their company or organisation.