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BLOGAudience Assumptions

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Blogging, Communication, Global Business, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations, Social MediaTagged as: , , ,

My recent trip to India has once again sensitized me to an assumption that writers and speakers too often make:  that everyone understands what you mean to say.

This is absolutely not the case.  Test yourself – what do the following three words mean?  Flyover, Subway, and Removalist.

If you are in India, a Flyover is a local bridge that “flies over local traffic”; elsewhere, it has something to do with airplanes.  In much of the world, a Subway is a road or pedestrian path that goes underneath another road; in most of North America a Subway refers to the Metro.  (Or a sandwich shop.)  In Australia, a Removalist is someone who transports your possessions when you move houses; elsewhere this person is called a house mover.

When the mother tongue of the audience isn’t English, the problem intensifies.

Before delivering a critical presentation or posting a widely read blog or Twitter post, answer the following questions about your audience:

  • What is your audience’s English comprehension level?  Do you need to do part of your presentation in their language?  Or at least open with a local phrase?  I give a number of suggestions to address the issue in this Tipsheet.
  • Which English do they know? (American, British, Canadian, Indian, Australian, Hong Kong, etc) Does it make sense to test your content with a smaller group first?
  • Can you use local examples to help them better relate?  Or is it better to keep with universal principles – and be vanilla-generic – to avoid making an embarrassing mistake.

One of the most important reasons for a digital strategy is that it forces you to define your target audiences, and  lets you focus the version of your language squarely on this target.  Without a strategy, it will become increasingly difficult to use the “right” language – or have an impact.


Whether you have a strategy or not, spend a few minutes defining your primary audience – then review your last few status updates, blog posts, or videos to see if they are using the “right” language.  And when you are doing that critical presentation, remember that comprehension is in the mind of the audience, not the mouth of presenter.

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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