Get to know your audience, John Hughes style

When movie director John Hughes passed away, several actors from the infamous “brat pack” were interviewed about what it was like to work with the director.

A reporter asked Molly Ringwald how she was cast as Samantha, her character in Sixteen Candles. Turns out, Molly never auditioned for the role. John Hughes had pulled her photo from a stack of casting head shots. He posted her photo above his desk and began to write the script for the girl in the photo. This teenage girl he’d never met became his muse.

He imagined what life was like for her. What was her daily routine? Who were her friends? What were her interests? Dreams? Fears? So began the story of Samantha Baker and Sixteen Candles.

Getting to know your audience whether fictional or real, is the key to powerful storytelling. Like John Hughes, you have the opportunity to get inside your audience’s heart and mind.

Doing so, will empower you to create a presentation that resonates, inspires and makes an impact.

typewriter - camille-orgel-unsplash

Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

Why you need to know your audience

Learning about your audience is what will help you create a story that resonates, inspires and makes an impact. Understanding your audience in detail – who they are, what they care about, what keeps them up at night, what problems they’re facing and solutions they are looking for – will help you tailor your presentation to hit on each of these elements.

It will help them feel understood as if you are speaking directly to them. This builds trust and will establish you as a thought leader.

In addition to creating connection with your audience, it will also help you identify which speaking opportunities are right for you. When you know your audience well you can begin to select engagements that attract your key audience saving you time and energy chasing after gigs that are not a fit.

How to understand your audience

As a speaker and entrepreneur, you know who your ideal audience is and what they care about. It’s important to – revisit your audience – or dive deeper because it will eliminate any assumptions or blind spots you have about who they are. It will help you update any information that may have changed and you may uncover new insights!

So how can you get to know your audience better? Here are a few ways to get started:

Interview your current clients

You spend time with and work with them daily. When was the last time you had a conversation that wasn’t related to business? When was the last time you asked about what they are working on, what their goals are, what challenges they’re having?

Why not take the time to find out? Set up a time outside of your regular appointments to hop on the phone or take them out for coffee. Ask a few questions to get the conversation started and then listen. Let them tell you where they are and what, if any guidance or solutions, they’re looking for.

Survey your community

Surveys are a fast, inexpensive way to learn about your audience. Use tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to create a questionnaire and then share it with your community. Send it to your clients, newsletter subscribers and share it on social. Within a few days, or hours, you’ll have new information and insights about your audience that will make your next presentation more impactful.

Leverage social media

If you blog or vlog often, you’re sitting on a goldmine of information. Go through old blogs and read through the comments to glean information about what your audience wants to needs to hear most. Go through your Facebook pages or groups to find out what’s hitting home with your audience.

Gathering all of this information will help you get into the heart of your audience members. The next time you write a speech, you’ll know exactly who you are writing to and what message will make a great impact.

If you’d like, create a fictitious audience member. Give her a name, print out a picture and hang it in front of computer. It worked for John Hughes. Why not you?

Want to understand your audience and make a greater impact? I’d love to help! Reserve your complimentary consultation to get started.

What I Learned About Storytelling From John Hughes

When John Hughes passed away a few years ago, I watched an interview with several members of the “brat pack.” They were gathered together to celebrate John Hughes, his life and to share stories about what it was like to work with the director. A reporter asked Molly Ringwald how she was cast as Samantha in Sixteen Candles. She said she never auditioned for the role. Instead, John Hughes had pulled her photo from a stack of casting head shots. He posted her photo above his desk and began to write the script. He wrote the story for the girl in the photo – this teenage girl. She became his muse. He began to imagine what life was like for her. He thought about her daily routine, her friends, her interests and concerns. So began the story of Samantha Baker.

Finding a muse, and getting to know your audience, is the key to powerful storytelling. Like John Hughes, you have to get inside the character, or your potential client. Find out their top concerns, what keeps them up at night, how they spend their time and what solutions would put them at ease.

There are several ways you can gather this research. Send out a survey to your current and past clients. Review your frequently asked questions or customer service requests. Post a question to your followers on Facebook or Twitter.

Once you have this information, you can then create your own muse. Give her a name, write a brief profile of her, print out a picture and hang it in front of your computer. The next time you write a blog post, craft a marketing email or draft a speech, you’ll know exactly who you are writing to. Tailoring your message to your muse will resonate and create a big impact.

Now it’s your turn…..Have you created a muse? How has this helped you connect with your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.