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Listen Up!: Keeping Your Audience in Mind

August 26, 2016

One of the services that the Local History Services Department offers is on-demand workshops. We work with local organizations to figure out which of our workshops they might want and how we can tweak the workshops to fit their needs. When I work with the local organizer to plan a workshop, I ask about the target audiences and develop activities that I hope will be beneficial to them.

Creating content and activities for all of my target audiences is one of the hardest parts of developing a workshop. I try to keep in mind that no one can be all things to all people. Keeping things balanced among different types of activities means that I have to consider balancing different types of interactions and managing attendee expectations.

I think about the learning goals of the workshop.
  • What are the expected outcomes?
  • What are the takeaways?
  • What will the attendees have learned?
Then, I think about the best ways to achieve those outcomes and provide the takeaways.
  • What types of interaction should there be?
  •  Should there be a lot of instructor-led discussion?
  • Would small and/or large group interaction be helpful?
  • What kinds of visual aids and activities would further the discussion and learning objectives?
As I consider these questions, I constantly remind myself of the target audiences, their needs and expectations.
  • Are there multiple audiences attending the workshop?
  • What kinds of institutions are the attendees involved with?
  • What are their varying levels of experience and interest?
  • What are their roles at their institutions?

I know that I won’t be able to please everyone all of the time, but my goal is to engage everyone at some point during the workshop. The best way that I can do that is to always keep the audience in mind.

If you are interested in more information about audiences and audience engagement, the LHS Lending Resource Center is a great place to look. I also recommend checking out the U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts and Colleen Dillenschneider’s blog Know Your Own Bone.

Tamara Hemmerlein is the Hoosier Heritage Alliance coordinator at IHS. She will be traveling all over Indiana to advocate for good collections stewardship. Tamara loves mashed potatoes and ice cream, but not together.

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