Support Staff Symposium Wrap Up
Audience = Priority 1
Put your audience’s needs first. That’s the message I heard in several sessions (and taught myself) at this year’s Support Staff Symposium. What does that mean, when your programs and services are already designed to help your patrons?
What does your audience want?
They probably don’t want to learn to use a new database. But they may need to find full-text research articles or environmental safety data or tax forms for their business. Putting the audience’s needs first means telling them how you can help them before you tell them what you’ll do.
Come learn how to use our new EBSCO database and find the research you need!
Your audience may never make it to the second half of that sentence. If “EBSCO” isn’t familiar, it just sounds like some complicated thing. You may want them to learn how to use a database; you can see how useful that is. But that might be the very thing a person might try to avoid. They don’t want the database. They want the result. Start there.
Find the research articles you need for your next paper with help from a professional researcher!
This doesn’t even mention databases, even though that’s the tool you’ll teach them to use. If I was confident that I would walk away with useful articles, I’d take a chance on coming in.
Who is your audience?
The better you know your audience, the better you can create classes that help them (and market those classes to them). If you have a class for first-time Facebook users, who would mostly likely come: 15 year-olds or 60 year-olds? (Hint: Look at who has attended those classes in the past!) If your target audience is 60 year-olds, do they want to use Facebook to play games or connect to family and friends? If you aren’t sure, ask people what they want to learn, and make that benefit your pitch to them.
What excuses might your target audience make for not coming to your program? Maybe they aren’t very computer savvy. They think the class will be too complicated or long, they don’t really want to connect to their estranged family. You can’t predict every complaint, but you can explain that the class is for beginners, easy to follow, and they’ll be connected and adding friends in just 45 minutes.
Putting your audience first will change your programs.
It will make them better. If a class needs to be easy, you might include other volunteer instructors to give people more individual guidance. You might develop a checklist to follow when students come in with research assignments so you can pick the best database to teach them. People will leave knowing that you’ve helped them, and helping people feels good.
Susan Schlag, the day’s keynote speaker, shared some great resources to help you put the audience first in your communications. Those resources aren’t publicly available, but if you want to learn more about making the audience your priority, contact me at email@example.com. I’m happy to help.