Know your audience – they’re not always who you think they are.

“Who am I talking to?” It should always be one of the first questions you ask.

Understanding who you’re communicating with can make or break your message. That’s because the person or people on the receiving end may have a different background or worldview that impacts what they absorb and how. You may be talking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people understand you, or are even listening. Your message is only as good as your audience’s ability to perceive and relate to it.

Possessing intel on your audience is critical, so here are some tips on how to get it and what to do once you have it:

1. First, do your homework. Whether it’s an interview, a board meeting, or a packed convention hall, put in the time to read and do research about the person or people in the room with you. Where are they from? Where do they work? What’s their commute like? Do they have kids? What you learn may even surprise you.

2. Put yourself in their shoes. Before you craft your message, use the information you’ve gathered to get to know who you’re speaking with. Now that you know a little bit about them, you can start to think about what they’ll respond to.

3. Personalize what you say. Put your research to work. It can be as simple as talking about the weather or as nuanced as reminiscing about a shared experience. People resonate the most with a message they can personally relate to.

4. Be nimble. Pay attention to the feedback you’re getting while you speak. What body language are you seeing? Are people laughing at your jokes? Do they look bored? Are they nodding or shaking their heads? Double down on what is working and don’t be afraid to change tactics on the fly if something is not working. Your audience will feel heard if you’re paying attention and responding in real time.

5. Tell the truth. Always be genuine and never lie. Your audience will know instantly whether or not you believe in what you’re saying.

Professionals know that preparation is half the battle when it comes to executing on a messaging strategy. That’s why Foresight spends time and resources making sure each project’s audience is well-researched. Audience intelligence is valuable and it will not only set you apart, it will help you cut through the noise and resonate directly with whoever is listening to or reading your message.