Tough Audience…Or Was It?
Every now and again, a speaker genuinely faces a tough audience, yet it’s important to remember there can be several reasons for a, seemingly, hard sell situation. Let’s look at the top three now.
1. Is it really my audience or am I feeling insecure?
It’s not uncommon for a speaker to reflect his/her emotions onto the crowd. Maybe you aren’t seeing a smile when you think it should be there. That doesn’t necessary mean you’re doing anything wrong. Make sure there are actual signs of boredom, discontent or even people exiting before altering your presentation.
2. Are they nodding off?
Audiences don’t always become sedated due to the person behind the podium. Sometimes, it’s the timing of the engagement. How many after-meal sessions have found you feeling drowsy? The key is to think ahead by keeping a creative tactic on hand, such as having a portion of the crowd stand for a particular reason. Example: “Everyone who is wearing the color red, please stand.” Afterwards, you can explain that their choice of dress demonstrates they are supposed to be the people in the room with the most confidence. By using physical audience participation, you are guaranteeing the rest of the group’s attention. They don’t know what to expect next!
3. Is it a culture thing?
Believe it or not, north, south, east and west matters. If you speak in the southern United States, you are apt to notice more nodding and other facial expressions than you would if you spoke to groups in the northern United States. Nevertheless, both audiences could be completely enjoying themselves equally. Facial contributions are rarely a reason to assume the audience is tough. It helps to chat with a few people, if possible, before you speak and try to gather a sense of the culture you’ve been invited to communicate with.
The truth, statistically, is that 95% of your audience wants you to succeed. Why? Because an equal 95% of the population is afraid of speaking themselves. At the very least, they will honor your attempt to step up on the stage. Don’t let tough audiences get to you personally. Speaking is much like riding a bicycle. Sometimes, you’ll fall down, but if you get back up, you’ll get where you want to go.