Step 4 – Audience Assessment and Personas

Introduction to Audience Assessment and Personas

One of the first things you will want to do before putting together your online course, presentation, or workshop is discover who your audience is. Okay—I know you think you know who they are, but stick with me. Nothing is more important than designing materials that meet the needs of your audience; therefore, you must discover both who they are and what they need. As you design your materials, you must remain focused on who they are. But don’t worry—I have a few tools that will help you navigate this task. I will introduce you to personas: a concept used in marketing that we will repurpose for our task of creating materials with our audience in mind.

Tool: Audience Assessment Question Tool

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Tool: Audience Description

Now, come up with a statement describing your audience. This might seem like busywork, but as you move down the line it will be helpful to reference this statement as you’re deciding what to teach your audience and the validity of including or not including content.

Use the following questions as a guide for writing your Audience Summary:

  1. Based on your analysis: Who is your target audience?
  2. Describe the audience in detail. (Who/What/Experience/Attitude/Knowledge)
  3. What do you already have in place that will meet the needs of your target audience? (Strengths)
  4. What gaps did you identify in appealing to this audience? (Weaknesses)
  5. Did you discover any new ways to appeal to the target audience that you had not thought of before? (Opportunities)
  6. What challenges might you need to overcome to appeal to this audience? (Threats)
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Tool: Create Personas

After you finish the audience assessment and you have written the description of your audience, and you know what performance intervention you will design for your audience, it is imperative that you keep your audience in mind. As you dive into the details of the project you might find yourself forgetting who you are designing the intervention for. One of my favorite ways to keep my audience in mind is by using something I borrowed from the world of marketing. I create a variety of personas to remember as I am creating the design. Personas are the characteristics or behaviors that give us an impression of who someone is. Personas represent a major group that will use your content. We will use personas to remind us who we are creating content for. It’s a way for you to keep the typical target audience member in mind as you design your intervention. Some of you might be SMEs or Subject Matter Experts. So keeping a persona in mind will keep you from falling into the trap of skipping over content that is familiar to you, but not your audience.

So let’s determine personas for your course.

Now that you know who your audience is, how can you keep them in your mind’s eye whilst you are designing and developing materials? Don’t skip this step. In all my years of developing courses I can tell you that as the materials become more complex, and you’re trying to figure out how to explain a topic, this could be by far one of the most useful tactics you’ll find in explaining your topic well, and in creating just the right materials for your audience.

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