Audience and purpose

To help you decide on a style of speaking that is suitable for a particular situation or context you should think about:

  • who you are speaking to
  • why you are speaking to them

For example, in a conversation with friends you are likely to use a very different style of speaking and listening than you would in a formal presentation to an unfamiliar audience.

Ask yourself the following key questions when preparing for speaking and listening:

  • Who are your audience?
  • How old are they?
  • What matters to them?
  • What do you want them to do or feel?
  • Why should they listen to you?

Your answers to these questions should help you focus on how you might best speak to your audience in an interesting and convincing way.

Malala Yousafzai greets the audience at the Norway Nobel Peace Concert (2014)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a confident formal speaker

Be clear about your purpose in presentations and discussions. Is your aim:

  • To persuade your audience to do something, eg to stop dropping litter?
  • To convince your listeners that your point of view is a fair one to hold?
  • To entertain your audience?
  • To share important information?
  • To give instructions, a report, advice or explanation?

It is a good idea to prepare notes in advance of formal speaking and listening situations and to practise beforehand in front of people.