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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.

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


[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.


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

Insightful, Entertaining, Thought-Provoking, and a little bit fun!

How better to listen, to learn, and to communicate in order to help preserve and create a better understanding and a better world.

I loved it so much! I don't have enough words to describe how much i have learned. This changed my perspective of view of a couple things. I want to thanks to everyone, specially Neil, because without all of you this wouldn't have been possible. I can't wait to be able to learn more from Neil. I even got sad after i realised that i was watching the last episode! I wish it could last much more.

Helped me open my mind to objective thinking.



Preparation, knowing one's audience, writing it down, refining the vocabulary, doing the homework. Lots of work in order to present one's ideas effectively

Rahul S.

These lessons are very informative. The method of thinking which is required in this field is often either forgotten or deemed unimportant in today's education, which has led to a wave of students finding the subject hard or boring. Thank you for your guidance in attaining even a fraction of how to think in the scientific community. I hope you will do further classes like these, maybe some in the field of astrophysics.

A fellow student

I appreciate the idea of writing out your thoughts, and understanding your audience, being able to disagree with knowledge in your pocket, especially in an age when political science, environmental science, public health sciences, and intersectionality are going to have to make some very big ideological movements, if we are to steer this ship. Being very clear to a variety of audiences is going to be paramount to change, reaching out to those who feel and think differently, we need everyone's thoughts to matter if we are to find workable solutions. AND there were/are many GREAT song writers, authors, and satirists who understood all of this and these songs/stories are told long after their artists die. Thank you Dr. deGrasse-Tyson

A fellow student

Favorite post so far. Very practical. Makes the whole subscription worth it!


neil degresse tyson, i just want to hug you. you are definitely in the top best humans!!!!

Fabio S.

But is writing really the 'ultimate form of communication' just because it passes through time? It certainly used to be special in that way but now we can have a recorded voice or a movie that passes through time.

Jay T.

1:38 That commencement speech comment reminds me of the meme that teachers that suck are the ones who use 15-year old PowerPoint slides that are no longer relevant to the present. Jokes aside, I like how this Masterclass about scientific thought also doubles as a lesson in marketing. Heck, he even talked about how studying the demographics is key to understanding one's target audience and it sounds similar to market research. (It's even more fitting for me personally because I not only love science, but entrepreneurship as well.)

Dane A.

hello Dr Tyson, i am a climate change researcher. i had experienced arguing with people that climate change is real (this is my entire life and career), but there are some people who are so closed off even after being presented with credible research. so at times it is also important to put the truth out there, so that others may read and find out for themselves. this is a great lesson that i will come back to. looking forward to communicate science effectively. Thank you

Bernardo F.

Probably the best lesson so far, Neil achieved to sum up everything I've been learning for the past 2 years in 12 minutes. And I say that amount of time because is how long I've been into teaching, I also participated a couple of months as a museum guide. I think I did a good work, and I agree so much with Neil and all his advice, one of the things that I remember the most is the need to know more than I was actually going to present, in case of a question, in case there was someone who knew more on that topic, in case someone told me the opposite, or maybe something newer... I mean, this is the top of the mountain for someone like me: being able to communicate efectively no matter the audience; in the museum I had to deal with children, lots of them, and at the beginning it was hard because you can't use complicated words, you have to rely on movies, games and so; their attention spam is shorter than anyone, so you must catch their attention every 5 minutes! But, I'm on my way... and hopefuly I will get to that place, or even farther.

A fellow student

I am only 14 and I somehow now this is most likely to be the greatest show I've ever seen