Layers of audience

When most people think about the idea of an “audience” for their creative work, what comes to mind is a direct connection. The ballet dancer walks on-stage, and once the spotlight hits them, the only thing between them and their audience is the air hanging in the theatre.

Unfortunately, chances are that if you’re reading this, you don’t work in a field were you have a single, direct connection with your audience like that—it’s probably more convoluted. Most of us work within a team of people, and this creates a second layer of “audience”. Nowhere is this more true than someone in a leadership role, even if that leadership isn’t explicit or permanent.

Our work within the group dynamics is now the first layer of audience. You have to “perform” for, and with, the group in a way that achieves the outcome you want—like shipping the software release on time, or diagnosing a particularly nasty bug that cuts across team responsibility lines, or agreeing on a new direction for the company brand.

Think of it like taking a shot on the pool table where you have no choice but to use the knock-on effect. You have to plan for the ball you hit to knock another ball in just the right way to put the latter in the pocket.

Being a leader means being aware of all possible layers of “audience” you’re working with, and perform to the first layer in a way that ensures the last layer get what they need—the software upgrade, the resolved issue, or the refreshing re-brand.

It’s tricky, but them’s the breaks.

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