What doesn’t kill us…
will make us wish we were dead.
(Not what you thought I was going to say I bet.)
Have you ever spoken to a tough audience? Allowed something to escape from your lips on stage that you wanted to shove back in as quickly as possible? Maybe you have left feeling absolutely ridiculous because the audience did not react like you expected.
As speakers, those times will eventually happen. It’s a reality.
One of the top fears public speakers have is that their audience won’t like them. The thought is terrifying thinking of standing in front of a group of people who are throwing rotten tomatoes at us.
As a full time speaker, I have had tough audiences. Audiences that stared at me when I dropped the punchline and delivered a one liner I was sure would make them laugh. Audiences that seemed harder to warm up than last night’s supper and it was tougher to crack their shells than walnuts.
Yes, it happens.
Some audience members, no matter how witty and warm, how charming and funny, how dynamic and persuasive we are…will NOT like us. They might not like us because we are those things.
Here are a few tried, tested, and true ways to relate better with the audience.
- Talk to your audience not at them. Try not to say the word YOU as if a finger is being pointed. Say the word WE and they will feel as if you have been in their shoes.
- Relate the content of your speech to them, to their situation, their challenges and lives. Don’t just talk about yourself.
- To prevent going down in the speaker Hall of Shame instead of the Hall of Fame, pray before your foot ever steps up to the stage. We have been called to be speakers so we must call upon the one who called us. I always ask God to add or edit the words from my mouth. It works. Try it!
- Research the audience. Find out their ages ahead of time. This prevents generational gaps and saying things they might not understand. Make sure if it is men and women not to cross the line and say something inappropriate when both genders are present.
- To avoid sounding boring or robotic, don’t read your presentation straight from notes. Monotone never captures an audience.
- Show up early and do a soundcheck with the microphone. It doesn’t matter how loud you think your voice is (and trust me, I’m loud), don’t refuse the microphone.
- Even if we do all of the things above, every single audience is not going to make us feel like we were successful. The thing to remember is that we don’t live for the applause. We live in obedience to what God has called us to do.
I end with a few personal touches that I use regularly.
- Greet people at the door.
- Remember names and use them from the stage.
- Come prepared.
- Be yourself.
- Stay professional.
- Look the audience in the eyes.
- Even hug them afterward, if needed.
About Tammy Whitehurst
Rarely do we hear funny and message with a meaning in the same sentence, much less used to describe the same person, but Tammy Whitehurst is anything but a typical speaker. People describe her as a Hoot with a capital “H” and love the realness that she shares and her ability to connect with the heart of her audiences.
Find out more about Tammy