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Audiences Are Your Friend

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

“Grasp the subject, the words will follow.”
-Cato The Elder Quotes

From rank amateur to ignorant professional, audiences create the same effect no matter how small they are to a speaker: fear and anxiety.

From a single person to a crowd as big as the fans in the Super Bowl, speaking in front of a severe listening audience is the actual test and baptism of fire.

Despite this, audiences are predictable. Audiences listen to you because they want to learn something from the speaker.

Following this logic, the speaker would do well to follow the strategy of making it informative and enjoyable for listeners to see your speech through until the end.

Here are some tips on having the audience listen with great attention.

1. Speak according to the listener’s interests. It is always a clever idea to find out what the crowd you are speaking to is interested in. For example, if you have more teenagers in the crowd, you do not want to talk about your subject in a way that bores them, like a good education. Other aspects to consider would be the local culture, age, sports, religious inclinations, etc. Talk about what is important to them, something they can easily relate to without a stretch of the imagination.

2. Praise the audience. Audiences are human too, and each one of them needs to be acknowledged as much as you want to be recognized for speaking well in front of them. There is only one requirement for this maxim: your praise needs to be one hundred percent sincere. Anything less, and you will have resentment in your hands.

3. Connect with the audience. Find a common thread that makes the audience relate to you, and you will find that the speech will come through well. Finding a common thread humanizes you and the address. It makes them want to listen to you because it may help them somehow.

4. Have the audience take part. Get somebody to come onstage and take part in a demonstration. Ask questions of the audience. Get feedback. Please encourage them to walk up to the microphone and give you a piece of their mind. The point is to involve the audience, making it more natural to them. Take them along with you in your experience.

5. Less you, more of them. Play yourself down. Nobody, especially an audience, likes to be lectured to. This will cause resentment that will last a long time. Never feel that you are above them. The better way to think about your audience would be that you care about their welfare. Think of yourself as their best friend, often holding you in good stead.

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