Science & Tech, Business

Preparing for Your Audience

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Lesson time 12:40 min

To properly prepare for an audience, you need to get detailed information about whom you’re speaking to. Neil discusses how to consider demographics and how that influences his message.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Arming for the Argument · Thorough Preparation · The Written Word


[MUSIC PLAYING] - So if you're going to tell anybody anything-- either an individual, a small group, a large group, doesn't matter-- you have to understand your audience. You have to. Otherwise, it's two ships passing in the night. Otherwise, you'll be lecturing and not communicating. I try to make sure I give at least one high school commencement speech in New York City each year, at least one. It has to be a public school. I'm a product of the New York City public schools. So it's my little way of giving back. This was for a high school over in Brooklyn. And in this school, it's in a struggling area. The neighborhood is poor. And so I spoke to the organizer of the-- in fact, I spoke to the principal. And I sent a series of questions to her. And I said, OK, how many students? How many male, how many female? How many-- how many students qualify for free lunch? Which is an indication of the poverty level that they experience. What percentage of students go to college? What percent of students had dropped out? So I'm asking these demographic questions. And the response was, why do you want to know? What-- why does that have to do with anything? And I was like, whoa. The principal thinks that a commencement speech is this prefabbed thing that shouldn't actually know, care, or have any concern about who the audience is. Her idea was, if you have a message, you should deliver the message. And I had-- I had to explain that my message is going to be my message. But how I deliver the message is completely influenced by who I'm talking to. If it's mostly girls in the graduating class than boys, and they have ambitions, I'm going to tell them, there's certain professions where you're going to have to work hard, because the men are in control. And so there's-- there's a gender demographic that will influence how I deliver a message. If people are poor, I will-- I will add some examples of people who overcame not having much resources. And say, by the way, in college, there-- there is scholarship money. And I'd say a little more about that. These little nuances-- again, this is my utility belt coming into a talk. What am I drawing from to convey the message that I want to convey? And it is-- it is these little methods, tools, and tactics that enable the same message to be received in one way by one person and in a different way by a different person. So I was initially disappointed that the principal of the school would think that a commencement speech would just be a lecture, without any care of who is in the audience. But then I was happy that I ultimately convinced her of the value of what it is that I would make of this information. I'm giving this example, of course, in the context of a commencement speech, but it applies to everything, if you're trying to communicate. Understanding your audience is knowing their propensity to humor-- to smile, to laugh-- their political leanings, what demographics best represent who and ...

About the Instructor

With a hit talk show and bestselling books, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most popular figures in modern science. Now the influential astrophysicist teaches you how his mind works and how he connects with audiences. Learn to think like a skeptic, open your own mind through scientific literacy, distill data, and navigate bias to discover objective truths—and deliver your ideas in ways that engage, excite, and inspire.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches you how to find objective truths and shares his tools for communicating what you discover.

Explore the Class
Sign Up