On Thursday, I had the opportunity to see Dan Vega speak at a one-day business bootcamp. There were several things he said that really stood out to me, but today I’m going to talk about this one:
“So many speakers underestimate the audience.”
In the context of what he was saying, he was suggesting that audiences are often more intelligent or well educated than speakers give them credit for. But there are so many other ways that, I believe, speakers often underestimate their audience.
For one, many believe that the audience is there to find fault in your presentation and pick you apart. This leads many to suffer from a fear of speaking. Of course, hostile audiences do exist, but I think on average … and from the experiences shared by many of the featured speakers I’ve interviewed for this project … most audiences want you to succeed.
Audiences want to see you shine. They want to be entertained and enlightened by what you have to say. They want you to be a great (or at least decent) speaker. It is a rare person who actually wants you to fall flat on your face.
The audience is in your corner.
Sometimes speakers underestimate the interest the audience has in the topic. And so they go out of their way to “add interest” to their presentation. Humor, props, bells, and whistles all have their place … but they need to appropriate to the topic at hand. For most presentations, the audience chose to be there. They are interested in the topic.
Another thing that leads to public speaking anxiety is the belief that the audience expects you to know everything about your topic. Yes, they hope and expect that you will know more than they do. But often, they are just as please if you just know different things about the topic. Their main expectation is that they will leave your presentation with at least a nugget or two of information they didn’t have before. So give them your best.
I’m sure there are a myriad ways that speakers underestimate their audiences. I’d love to read what you think. Please add your comments in the “Leave a Reply” box below.