Know Your Audience


Whether you are delivering a presentation or sending an email, you need to know who your audience comprises of. If you are liaising with your friends and close peers who are on the same “level” as you, then you can afford to be a little casual. However, if you’re speaking with a manager or executive, then you should really watch what you say and how you say it because everyone is judging you whether you like to believe it or not.

Context of the Situation

One of my many mentors is the SVP at the company that I completed my co-op at. At our second last meeting, I sent her my handbook to review and she said that she could reach out to HR and get some parts of this standardized and published for all the future students to use. I was told to follow up with her, and I did a few days later. I sent her an email asking her to read and complete feedback/proceed with further action by a set deadline. Thankfully, this was completed before my last day of work, but past the deadline that I had given.

What I’ve Learned

At my last mentorship meeting, I asked my SVP what feedback she had for me as a mentee. She told me that the one thing she could think of was that I had to be more careful of what I asked of people, especially those of higher status (before you start thinking that this was a power and authority thing, it is definitely not). She told me that the reason I had to be careful of what I asked of people was because I had to consider how busy other people (especially managers and executives) were. If I had been setting a deadline for the other students, then it would have been fine. But, seeing that I had given a short deadline (because of my end date in the way) to the SVP without considering her workload, shows a lack of professionalism. She also told me that it is important to give context for the deadlines given.

For example: please complete this by X date because the report is due the following week to our senior manager.

By providing a reason for the deadline, the receiver/audience would be more willing to complete the task than if you had just given them a hard date with no explanation. When people lack context, they don’t see the importance of getting it done, and may not prioritize it.

Consider who your audience is before making the ask. Give sufficient information to drive appropriate action.