Are You Speaking with or at Your Audience?

I believe that a product or service is best served by speaking with one’s audience rather than speaking to or at that audience. The former suggests conversation; the latter connotes superiority. The first allows for dialogue. The second results in alienation at best and hurt feelings at worst.

Perhaps it’s a little silly to obsess over prepositions, but they make a difference. I have been in the audience of both one who speaks with me and one who speaks at me. The first instance made me feel as though I belonged even if I wasn’t the smartest person in the audience. The second only made me feel unintelligent, unworthy, and unappreciated. It’s those thoughts and feelings that led to the recording of my latest video.

What do you think? Is is better to speak with or at an audience?


  1. I think you’re absolutely right about the whole respect thing. Talking WITH your audience is more organic, even communal; talking TO them is a top down, hierarchical experience that suggests a sense of superiority or entitlement. There’s no room for listening or mutuality or — most shocking of all — learning from each other. 
    Your careful choice of pronouns also reflects our growing understanding about how our world is getting flatter. (Social media has made a huge contribution in this area.) And when we continue to talk TO our audience, we demonstrate that we’re just not paying attention to how things are changing. We risk sounding like dinosaurs. We risk sounding irrelevant. And we risk losing our audience before they even have a chance to hear what we have to say. 
    This is the first video of yours I’ve watched. I loved hearing your voice and seeing your smile. 🙂

    • magriebler I suppose experience has been a good teacher. My bad experiences have taught how not to speak with people. The good experiences are ones I strive to emulate.
      Thanks! I started the videos as practice for public speaking. They then turned into an additional component of Write Right. People seem to like them, so I keep recording them. 🙂

  2. Speaking WITH is a converation. Speaking AT is a monologue. I want conversations:) Cheers! Kaarina

  3. Almost always with… Unless you are talking to a jury. Hahahahahahahaha!

  4. Yep, talking with people is it for me unless I am in geoffliving situation. Cheers.

    • rdopping It seems to be the general consensus.
      You’ll be happy to know that tomorrow’s post is about tone of voice. 🙂 geoffliving


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