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Dealing with a Difficult Audience

Public speaking involves uncertainty. You can never be sure of how an audience will receive you or your message. There are times when your delivery is powerful but yet still you can’t seem to connect with your audience. As a speaker these kinds of challenges are normal and will happen regardless of your delivery, content or message. We have to accept the fact that we must deal with audiences that are less than receptive to our communication & deliver regardless. Herein we’ll explore some truisms that help everyone, from beginner to expert – deal with a difficult audience.

It’s Not About You

When we get up and speak, we do something that requires social bravery. It also requires that we silence our inner critic and focus on delivering our message. Any negative reception by an audience should be taken with a grain of salt. We should remain singularly focused on maximizing the delivery of our message and not our audience’s (or perceived) judgment of us as a person. We, as speakers, should minimize our investment in this type of ego driven thinking. Instead, focus on the delivery of your message.

Mind Audience Body Language

Body language is a key element of human communication. Novice speakers are often are so wrapped up in the anxiety, self doubt that they forget to ‘listen with their eyes’ or watch the body language of the audience. If we see an audience that is on the verge of sleeping, showing facial expressions of doubt or distrust we should heed these signs. Try to read your audience and further engage with them in the following ways (to name a few).

Engage Your Audience

Many new public speakers tend to look at public speaking as a one way endeavor. They erroneously perceive that the audience is simply in attendance to quietly listen and not engage. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We should look at public speaking as we do a conversation. We should engage the audience to be involved with questions so they feel they are a part of this ongoing communication. You’ll notice the audience will vest more in your communication when you actively involve them.

Smile & Show Confidence

Regardless of audience reception we have a singular focus as public speakers of successfully delivering our message. If we are in positions where we may have resistance to new ideas (or change) we will have to work extra hard to get through to our audience. Part of successful speaking is not letting these sorts of challenges deter us. We should be driven by confidence, self-esteem and show it as communicators. Audiences should see this confidence and poise in our body language and hear it in our voice. Show perseverance and resilience and you will succeed.

Learn from Adversity

Our unwavering commitment to ourselves and our message should be unshakable. If we see in audience body language and hear in their questions that our speech or presentation just isn’t cutting it, we should find out why. Get feedback from members of the audience at the end of your speech can be a powerful learning opportunity. We always have opportunities to learn and improve but we must embrace them and only then will be see progress in our speaking outcomes.

What’s your experience? Have you had a difficult audiences that simply couldn’t connect with your message? As always, please do leave your comments and insights below.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with a Difficult Audience”

  1. I have been through this. I guess as painful as it can be in the moment, it is part of the experience and how you learn. When I know I am losing an audience, I just go into panic mode. I am sure many others know what I am talking about. It is quite embarrassing, especially at my age (31). These tips are fantastic and I have bookmarked the page as well as taking notes here.

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