The Receiver: Your Audience
After reading that title, you might be thinking –“I already know – too many things.” While that is true in a sense, the various members of any conventional audience are getting settled, changing positions to get comfortable, noticing others, keeping an eye on their children, etc.
However, in a much more specific sense, in relationship to the message which they are honestly and purposefully tracking, what is happening mentally.
Communication theory identifies three primary components of the communication process. These three components are part of any and all communication, whether it be public speaking, text messaging, emailing, radio, television, books, etc. . . . .
→ The Sender
→ The Message
→ The Receiver
Secondary Factors: We could add some of the other elements which are also examined by communication academics (which may or may NOT be part of any and all communication) such as . . . .
→ The Medium: Words / Gestures / Intonation / Visuals / Audio-Visual
→ Interference: “Noise” — The things which interfere with getting the message to the receiver such as a baby crying, an unheard word, a visual which comes up on the screen at the wrong time, a person coming in or leaving, etc.
→ Feedback: Information which flows the other direction, from the receiver to the sender.
→ The Context: Where the communication is taking place. The arrangement of the audience members, the nature of the “room,” the location (inside-outside), the size of the “room,” staging, lighting, the setting, etc.
The Receiver: What is happening inside the receiver?
Aside from all the secondary factors, WHAT is happening as people listen to you speak — as you the sender sends a message to the receiver? What is happening mentally inside of the one who is listening to the message?
The value of identifying what is happening is that a speaker can plan and/or adjust what he says and does in a message. It may be that far too often the speaker does not put him/herself in the position of the listener and therefore fails to plan and adjust accordingly.
That is evidently more true of “serial speakers!” As you consider what is happening in the minds of your audience, ask if . . . .
that is what happens in your mind as you listen to various speakers? Public speakers need to listen to other speakers more often, and then be more self-aware of what they are thinking and “saying” mentally as they are listening!
THAT IS what happens in my mind as I listen (and the minds of listeners), what can a speaker do to respond to that reality???
Three Things Your Audience Is Doing While You Are Speaking
One or more of these may be true at any point throughout the message.
I was going to start with the most obvious, but choose to begin with the most discounted of the three.
#1) Some listeners are mentally processing YOU!
This is more true of new listeners than of “consecutive listeners.” There are circumstances where this also sensibly applies to “repeat” or “consecutive” listeners, and that will be addressed below*.
Presence Does Not Speak Of Predisposition
Nevertheless, let’s begin with “new listeners.”
“New Listeners” have no personal relationship with you as a person. That is important to recognize. There are many speakers who develop an audience as they come to know the listeners and especially as the listeners come to know them. Relationships can and do build a church.
Recently I was asked to listen to a particular speaker. After listening, I said to myself . . .
“Not that impressed. Same old, same old — “Open your Bible to . . . . Last week we saw that Paul was instructing God’s people . . . . . This week we are going to see . . . . Paul wants to remind God’s people that . . . “
And then I emailed back and said,
“Not that good of a speaker in my opinion…very predictable, a trite pattern of speaking and little that catches your attention . . . . Maybe it’s just me? . . . . personally knowing a person always changes the listening quotient.”**
The point I wanted to make is that our relationship to the speaker changes up our willingness to listen and give our attention.
You know that to be the case when it comes to a speaker who . . . .
- is not an American
- is struggling with English, but trying real hard
- works in a difficult country of the world
- has a grand vision, but average in speaking ability
- has a heart for people
- is a people person
- you really like as an individual
- is a family member who is speaking
- has been around or known for a long time
- does a great job in ministry, but not the speaking ministry
We listen differently the more and better we know the speaker.
The listening quotient changes when we know and thereby admire some other qualities beyond their speaking.
If a pastor gets to know someone on a more personal level, that person is more likely to continue to come and listen, and will also be moved to have an increasing positive opinion of that speaker’s communication ability.
The more often or, the longer we turn to a radio station, the more likely it will grow on us. An audience is much like — “radio station listeners.” People also give some radio stations a second or third chance —- likewise, some will / may also give you a second opportunity.**
Nevertheless, it is that “mint listener” or “infrequent listener” who will be mentally processing YOU . . . .
You as a person, by the content, implied and/or stated within the message
Your abilities as a communicator of God’s Word
√ “By the content, implied and/or stated within the message” refers to
- the attitudes
- the values
- the ways of referencing people and situations
- what you think is humorous
- how you address or speak about others / woman / those with whom you differ / etc.
- your respect for the audience
- your regard for others
- you love towards people who are . . . .
- how you speak of your family / wife / mother / children / elderly / unlovely / minorities / those of position
AND . . . .
√ By “your abilities as a communicator” refers to . . . .
- how you handle speech material
- your mental ability
- your creativity
- eye contact (which speaks to sincerity and integrity)
- having a passion
- the perceived preparation
- a knowledge of the subject
- a breadth of knowledge of the events & world around us
All that leaks, trickles, seeps through when one speaks to a new audience member and to the well-worn listener who listens over time to the speaker.
It all travels on the same frequency as the actual words of the message.
* As I stated above, there are circumstances where this also sensibly applies to “repeat” or “consecutive” listeners. The longtime or longstanding audience of listeners are also mentally processing YOU, perhaps on a different level, but they are processing you.
As you are speaking, they are thinking about you in relationship to what you are saying. A “comparative estimate” is being made between you and your words, especially for the longstanding listener, and clearly not for the new listener.
Who of us (well not us – others) hasn’t heard a person talk about being faithful to the services of the church — attending Sunday school, morning services, evening services, and mid-week Bible study — and as they are speaking, we (not us — of course) are saying, “What are you talking about? You are as sporadic as they come!”
It is not only the reality, but again you do the same as you listen to others speak. We do not listen to people and not evaluate — what is being said against who is saying it.
The audience is mentally processing YOU while you are speaking. New listeners and those who are “serial listeners” are multi-tasking as they all listen to the words you speak. That is part of what is taking place while you and I speak!
AND because of that, I need to plan and/or adjust for that reality before and while I speak (I say, “while” because the realization of what I am saying at times catches me while I am speaking).
- Does your message communicate almost nothing but success in this-or-that area?
- Do you communicate a level of attainment which you yourself know is difficult to almost impossible (at least for those who are young in the faith)?
- Do you ask yourself, where is your struggle when it comes to this area?
- What can I say and should I say to sound honest and authentic? (Careful – see link)
How about including such comments as . . . .
- And this is not as easy to do as it is to preach it.
- This task is never over. We will battle until we reach the shores of heaven.
- By God’s grace because we are sinners by nature and it will creep back into our lives.
- Just when you think you have victory, you will find it seeping back in.
- I don’t have it all “right” yet in my life. I have never got up in the morning and said, “There isn’t much left to do in my Christian life and growth.”
- It is God’s Word, not because we have it under our belts, but because He has set it as an aim we are to shoot for in our lives.
- I wish I knew this when I was growing up – when I first got married — when I started the journey in raising children.
- (The famous) “He isn’t finished with me yet.”
- We are all on the same road, in the same boat, struggling at different places of the journey, but struggling to be more and more like Jesus!
- (My favorite) — It is not whether we are or are not, have or have not, but are we more and more!
Such comments will not only take the edge off as people listen, but such comments also help pastors empathize with where we all are in our walk with Christ.
We also get a little more realistic!
Remember . . . .
Presence Does Not Speak Of Predisposition
**In fact, I listened to three different messages from that speaker because I did not want to come to that conclusions without determining whether it was that particular message or the generally the speaker.