Speakers Need To Learn To Read Their Audience

We need to understand what our audience wants in order to give it to them
We need to understand what our audience wants in order to give it to them Image Credit: Collin Key

All of a sudden you are there. You are standing in front of your next audience. The good news is that you know what you want to say – in fact you’ve been practicing it. However, do you know what your audience really wants to hear? Perhaps even more importantly while you give your speech are you going to be able to determine if what you are saying is what they want to be hearing? It turns out that as speakers, we have another job: we have to be able to read our audience.

It’s All About The Audience

When you are giving a speech if you want to connect with your listeners, you must first learn how to “audience”. The ability to do a speaker-audience read to create your connection is delicate. Unfortunately, audience members don’t hold up signs that say “I don’t like what you are talking about.” Additionally they don’t often get up and walk out. They don’t even yawn. So you as the speaker must pay attention to the subtle signals provided by individual members of your audience, as well as to the overall vibes generated by your audience as a whole.

So, how can you tell if you are making an emotional connection with your audience? This is the kind of thing that you just “feel” – you’ll feel an invisible exchange of give-and-take in your gut. Some people refer to this as “electricity.” Audience member responses should rise and fall appropriately with the content of your story. For instance, if you state something that is a hard truth – “He died before he could give the money back”—audience members should be wincing. If you present a mysterious phenomenon, their foreheads should wrinkle. You also should see heads turning to follow your movements as you go from one side of the stage to the other. All these indicators can tell you whether your audience is excited, concerned, mildly interested or bored. Many speakers like to use humor to gauge an audience’s interest. If during your speech you receive appropriate audience laughter, you’ll know that the audience is responsive to your message.

Techniques To Use To Gage Your Audience’s Temperature

Always ask a question to show you that they’re following what you are saying. Get your audience to board your train of thought. If you ask a question and don’t get a response from your audience, rephrase the question. If you still get no reaction, then it’s time for you to take a different approach. If during your speech you determine that the audience is bored with your topic, then you need to take action. You can change your approach by turning every statement into a question. If you do this then you can win the audience’s attention through audience participation.

If you notice people with blank face, take action. During your speech you will want to take note of eye aversion, or any expressions where audience members are staring off into space. If you see this type of behavior, then it’s time to change your approach. If audience members make eye contact with you, then you can take that as a sign of acceptance.

Make eye contact with just a few people, one at a time. Do you see audience member’s eyes light up, faces redden or mouths harden when you make eye contact? If you aren’t getting any reaction, it means your words haven’t moved them. Similarly, if someone looks away when you make eye contact with them, then it’s cause for alarm. Faces reveal the person’s mind at work; when the mind is dulled, their faces will lack expression. Whenever you feel you are not making a connection with your audience, you can pause and recalculate. Then, you can change your presentation by slowing down, altering your voice, varying your slant, asking questions or telling a personal anecdote that relates to your topic. If you hone your audience-reading skills then you’ll be in command of every speaking situation.

What All Of This Means For You

It turns out that giving a speech is a dynamic event. Sure, you know the words that you’ll be saying before you take the stage; however, how your audience reacts to your words will be something that will unfold during your speech. As speakers we need to understand that every audience is different. This means that how they react to our speech will be different each time we give it. We need to be able to “read” our audience and understand how they are interpreting our speech so that we can adjust how we are delivering it.

In order to read our audience, we need to be aware that our audience will be giving off tell tale signs that can show us what they think about our speech. We can detect what our audience is thinking by the electricity of the connection between us. Their feelings should rise and fall along with our speech. During our speech we can ask questions to make sure that they are following what we are saying. We always need to act if we see that our audience has blank faces. During our speech we need to make eye contact with just a few people one at a time.

Speakers need to understand that giving a speech is not a one-way interaction. Instead, our audience can play a major role in how we give a speech. It is their reaction to what we are saying that should cause us to change how we are delivering our information. In order to stay on top of what our audience is thinking, we need to learn how to read an audience. Once we know how to do this, we can deliver speeches that connect with our audience and make a lasting impression.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you find that you are losing your audience, what can you do to get their attention back?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the things that a speaker needs to understand is that before they take the stage their audience has already formed an opinion about what they are about to hear. How did they get this impression? Simple –they read the name of your speech. What you choose to call your next speech will create an impression in your audience’s mind about what they will hear when you speak. What this means is that your speech title is very important. Do you know how to create a good speech title?