Audience

Introduction

A speech always has an audience. An important part of analyzing a speech is to figure out who the audience groups are and consider what characterizes them. This is relevant for the analysis because a speaker will usually try to modify her message and her rhetorical devices to be appropriate for the intended audience.

In some contexts, you may also see the word receiver(s) being used to describe the audience of a speech. Receiver is a broader analysis term, as it can also be used about other non-fiction genres such as articles, essays or blog posts.

Who is the audience?

Sometimes the text of the speech itself will give you some information about its audience, especially if the speaker addresses them directly. In other cases, you may need to figure it out by reading between the lines, or by doing supplementary research.

There are usually a number of different audience groups for important speeches. In many cases, the true audience of a speech is much wider than the group which was physically present while the speech was made. For example, when an American President makes a speech to Congress, the audience will usually also include a large proportion of the general US population (or perhaps even the global population), as the speech will probably be broadcast on TV, streamed online, and subsequently published in newspapers.  

Primary and secondary audience

As noted, speeches often target several different audience groups. George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” speech from 20th of September, 2001, is an interesting example, as Bush addresses a wide variety of audiences during the speech. Some of these audiences are internal to the US, while others are external.

The speech was made to the US Congress and was also broadcast live on TV, so both the members of Congress and the American people make up the primary audience of the speech. Reflecting this, Bush opens the speech by addressing both groups directly:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and fellow Americans.[1]

Bush’s main intention is to convince these groups that he is a strong leader who can unite the nation during the crisis.

However, he also makes references to other audience...

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