Is Anyone Listening to your Speech? – Talking in Public

Is Anyone Listening to your Speech?

Panel discussion

Recently I was asked to expand my thoughts on thinking about the audience when preparing your speech. Here’s a summary of what I do when I’m preparing my speeches.

Whether your audience is enthusiastic or hostile, one step in your preparation for talking in public must be to think about your audience, assess them and be prepared to be adaptable in your presentation.
Your audience is the reason you want to make a success of your speech so you must ensure that your style, your vocabulary and your message match the audience so they have the maximum opportunity to understand you.

What compels you to react to a public speaker and what is being said? For me (and for most humans) its the sincerity of the speaker. Sometimes I don’t agree with what is being said but when the speaker is genuine and sincere in presenting the information, I feel compelled to listen.

Knowledge of the subject of your speech is also vital but don’t let a wealth of knowledge make you speak down to your audience. I have yet to make a speech where there was no-one in the audience with some degree of knowledge of my subject matter!

So now to thinking about your audience. In a previous post I gave you some questions to ask yourself when you are preparing your speech, but now we are at the venue and you’ve had a quick peek at the actual audience – a sea of faces waiting expectantly for you…..

  • Are they friendly or hostile?
  • Knowledgeable, well primed, already bored or thinking of other things?
  • Having made a few assessments do you need to adapt what you have to say and how you are going to say it?

Your audience is a group of people – not people in special categories. Don’t talk down to them.

  • When you have a choice between a short word or longer words and phrases, use the short word simply because this will always be understood and will maintain the attention span of your audience;
  • Make sure they can hear you comfortably without you needing to shout;
  • When they are hostile, acknowledge that your points of view differ just as you would in any face to face negotiation;
  • If you feel they are not listening, try not saying anything for about 5 seconds – this can be enough time for them to refocus on you and gives you time to quickly reassess how you are presenting your speech so you can adapt it to keep their attention for a bit longer. 

If your audience feel you are interested in them by what you say and how you say it, then they will be interested in hearing what you have to say – even when they don’t agree with you!