Reading Your Audience

Public Speaking Success – Read your Audience

Novice public speakers often ask me how to best gauge an audience during a speech. Hearing this question impresses me because indicates a speaker is making an effort to more effectively connect with his or her audience. Reading your audience can help you in a variety of ways to be more compelling in the delivery of your content and even dynamically cater your speech content to more meet with audience expectations. Audience members are constantly giving you feedback in non-verbal (and sometime verbal) ways. Here are a few ways you can interactively read your audience and be more responsive to their needs:

Non Verbal Cues

Most of human communication is non-verbal. Most communication research suggest that between 60% and 70% of all meaning is derived from nonverbal behavior. Effectively reading these non verbal cues can mean the difference between a mediocre speech and a successful one. Being alert and aware of the audience perception and responses will aid us in interactively assessing the reception you are receiving. Does your audience seem to be tapping their toes or nodding off to sleep? What this tells you should be obvious when measured in context of assessing your audience.

Body Language

Our body speaks, most often louder than our words. As we referenced in the above studies, in the mix of communications components, body language is of primary importance. Learning the skill of awareness and the ability to assess an audience can be of critical importance to your success as a speaker. Do audience members lean forward as if falling asleep or cross their arms or legs? This is telling of reception to your speech and should be “listened” to.

Eye Contact

When speaking, how we use eye contact plays a critical role in effective delivery. We use our eyes to connect, persuade and even direct attention. Often, we often fail to “read” our audience as we speak and alter our content to more effectively fit their needs. Have you ever seen the bored nearly asleep gaze of an audience member? I certainly hope not, but if you did it is direct feedback you should be heeding. The audience speaks with its delivered eye contact feedback its up to you to interactively interpret and alter your speech to be most effective.

So remember to read your audience. When speaking you should use these insights on non verbal, body language and eye contact. They are valuable feedback you shouldn’t miss. This will make you all the more successful as a public speaker but only if you key in on it. As you speak you are gaining valuable feedback – don’t forget to “listen.”

Joseph Guarino is a professional public speaker, trainer and owner of the Institute of Public Speaking a Boston based international public speaking & leadership training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. The Institute of Public Speaking offers a variety of public speaking courses for individuals (1 on 1 training), executive speech coaching, one day public speaking bootcamps, advanced public speaking bootcamps and public speaking seminars for corporations & groups of any size.
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