How to Be a Good Audience Member

When you go to a seminar or speech, you want the speaker to give a good performance. But do you do your part to make the event a success?

Having an audience that is involved and responsive not only makes the speaker feel better, it creates positive energy that makes the experience better for everyone.

Although good speakers will direct their attention to each section of the audience at various times during their talks, most will also choose a few people in the audience who will get more attention from them. That is because those audience members are giving them good feedback.

On more than one occasion, I have had speakers tell me that I was their “touchstone” or their “rock” during their presentations. They knew that when they looked at me, I would be paying attention and responding. That gave them (and their presentations) more energy and excitement.

Being a good audience member is good for you, too, because you will get more out of it when you are alert and involved with what the speaker is saying.

Here is how you can be a better audience:

Pay attention—and let the speaker know you are paying attention. Watch the speaker and really listen to what she is saying.

Be responsive. Make eye contact. Nod. Smile. Laugh at his jokes. Look serious when he tells a somber story. Let the speaker know he is getting through to you.

When the speaker tosses a question out to the audience, or does something that calls for a response, respond enthusiastically. Even if it just means giving a cheery, “Good morning!” in response to the speaker saying, “Good morning, everyone!”

Don’t look at your watch, check your email or text during the talk. The exception would be if it is appropriate to tweet updates from the presentation.

When tweets are displayed behind the speaker (as they are at many conferences) do not tweet something that will cause the audience to react and disrupt the presentation.

Don’t interrupt the presentation. Unless the speaker has indicated that you may ask questions at any time, hold your questions or comments until the end.

Ask good questions during the question and answer session. Don’t try to put the speaker on the spot, but ask a question that will help her to better develop a point she made during her presentation.

These all assume that the speaker is good. So what if the speaker is a dud? Even if you think the speaker isn’t interesting, give others the chance to listen. It should go without saying that you should not talk or be disruptive, but some audience members seem to believe that if they are not sufficiently entertained they should make their feelings known.

Make the most of the situation, and give the speaker a chance to win you over. You will both benefit from your effort.


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