Know Your Audience! Audience Analysis Exercise to Increase Audience Centered Communication and Teaching of Risk and Resilience

This page authored by Carrie Helgeson Nelms, University of Arkansas, based on an original activity conducted in Public Speaking.
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: April 11, 2014


There is unequivocal statistics that support the mass numbers on the move from loss of securities due to environmental disasters i.e. sea level rise, flooding, earthquakes, etc. Unresolved needs from miscommunication between host and natural disaster refugees have created an enormity of documented cases of conflict in the political, cultural and/or economic domain. Adaptation measures from natural disasters are obtainable between parties involving inter-organizational collaboration involving effective communication. Analyzing an audience's values, needs, and interests is a required tool for all scientists to be able to educate necessary adaptation measures to a diverse demographic consortium to advocate change before, during and after a natural disaster. In this classroom activity, students will discuss and deliver an informal risk assessment presentation from a natural disaster case study incorporating an audience centered approach with assigned audience demographics

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

The activity requires implementation and application of several skills which include:
  • Bringing awareness of demographic audience analysis that will be incorporated in risk assessments, resilience plans, or any other form of environmental disaster communication.
  • Relating communication messages to a targeted audience's values, needs, and interests.
  • Presenting an informal risk assessment presentation involving economic and social ramifications of the natural disaster case study that pertain to the targeted audience.
  • Incorporate an effective communication message that will benefit different audiences for better audience acceptance and retention.

Context for Use

This activity can be applicable to multiple undergraduates including all majors. Class size under 30 and students divided into a 6 person team for natural disaster presentations. This activity requires 1 to 2 class periods depending on the time length of class. I usually complete this audience analysis activity in 1 class period but my class size is under 20.

Description and Teaching Materials

Class Preparation: Provide one natural disaster case study to 4 students' teams. For this activity to be effective, make sure the audience profiles have obvious different demographics. Example of an audience profile: Sierra Club, Chamber of Commerce, Parent Teacher Association, Elks Lodge, choose a political organization and/or Town Hall Meeting.

Class Activity: Divide class into 4 to 5 person teams. Give each team the natural disaster case study, an audience profile and a grading criteria rubric. Explain to the teams in this activity they will perform an informal risk assessment presentation to their selected-audience profile covering economic and social ramifications of the natural disaster case they received and the grading criteria rubric will help guide their presentation. The goal of this activity is to form their message around their audience's values, needs and interests to receive more understanding and acceptance from the targeted audience of the overall presentation

Step 1: Student teams will analyze their targeted audience by constructing a list of the demographics of their audience including the audience's perceived values, needs and interests. They can use their laptops or cell phones to extract information about their audience's profile.

Step 2: The team will discuss and decide which economic and social assessments need to be addressed from the disaster that will pertain to their targeted audience's interest and benefits. The student teams will develop an informal risk assessment presentation constructing an audience centered message not ethnocentric.

Step 1 and 2, I usually allow 10 to 15 minutes preparatory time and 5 minute presentation.

Step 3: Before a team delivers their presentation, have the team write their list on the board of their audience profiles so the other students in the room can evaluate if the presentation did address the audience's demographics and their perceived values, needs, and interests.

Step 4: Have the teams deliver their economic and social risk assessment presentations from their natural disaster case study. While the team is presenting, the other students will use the grading criteria rubric to assess the team's message relevancy to the audience demographics on the board.

Class Discussion Questions: Discuss with the entire class, which team had the most effective communication message to the targeted audience and why? Which team related the message to the audience the best and why? How could some of the presentations been more focused on the targeted audience's values, needs, and interest? Why it is important to have an audience centered approach when communicating risk assessments from a natural disaster i.e. floods, earthquake, and sea level rise?

Teaching Notes and Tips

This usually is a fun activity that reinforces that a communication message should be structured around the audience values, interests and beliefs creating more engagement from the audience helping retention and acceptance of the message.


Students are graded by their peers on their ability to adapt their message to the assigned focus group by an open forum discussion and a grading criteria rubric. Grading criteria rubric is loaded in this activity.

References and Resources

Lucas, S. (2012). The Art of Public Speaking. New York: McGraw Hill.

O'Hair, D., Stewart, R., & Rubenstein H. (2012). Instructor's Resource Manual: A Speaker's Guidebook. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's.