Help, my audience is mixed!

A question from Anna, a while ago:

You often hear people say you should profile your audience. But how can you do that when you’re dealing with a mixed audience?

An important strategy in this case is ‘segmentation’: dividing your audience into segments.

The best example I know comes from a speech Ronald Reagan gave after a catastrophic accident with a space shuttle.

In the speech, he explicitly switches between different parts of his audience:

We know we share this pain with all the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.


For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy.


And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff.


I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission […]

Segmenting is hard when people in your audience have very different knowledge levels. Even then, explicitly switching between them is the best strategy.



PS I learned about this example from the book Resonate by Nancy Duarte, about presenting. Highly recommended!