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  • Alexandra Bond Burnett

Do audiences have a duty to the speaker?

This week, I introduced myself to a speaker that I had seen at a panel event in the recent weeks. With a look of recognition over his face, he said – ” I remember you, you were in the front nodding and responding to me, thank you for that – it really helped!”

Why do you think, he thanked me? After all, he was the speaker, shouldn’t I thank him?

The answer to both is yes. 

Are you actively listening?

Getting up on stage and sharing your experience can be really hard work, and genuinely terrifying for some people. I always feel that if I’m attending an event that is give me something of value, then I ought to give the speaker my full responsive attention. A bit of a “thanks for doing this, I appreciate it”.

I asked this speaker more about that, and he said – “I was great to see a friendly face in the audience, and I noted when you agreed and when you didn’t. That really helped shape my answers as I felt like I was having a conversation”

A speaker looks out, and instinctively responds to the audience as they go this can affect the quality of their talk by massive degrees. So, with that in mind, what do you give when you are listening to the speaker?

When we attend these events we are there to get. Get information and get value – and hopefully if the speaker is any good then you will!

However, that is a lot of getting, and no giving.

Communication is a two way street

Live events are a transactional form of communications – meaning that even though you are being a quiet mouse, the speaker is reading you, and talking with you. If you respond you are far more likely to receive better energy, and better content.

Responding can happen in many ways – not just heckling. Here is a list of things to bear in mind when sitting at your next event:

Eye contact. Try to give the speaker dues by making eye contact – they will be spurred on and more energetic.

Head bobs: whether you agree or disagree  let them know what you are thinking. This can often guide a speaker to cover more or less of the topic that resonates with you.Smile. Did you like a story or joke? So much of the time we internalise our emotional reactions. Do you show your pleasure outwardly? It might be worth noting the next tie you’re listening to something that you like. Did you smile?

Posture. Consider what your posture says about your engagement. Are you leaning forwards or slumped back? Leaning forwards indicates we are enthralled by the topic, quite literally on the edge of our seats. Often poor posture can be construed as a negative reaction to content.

Being active helps you get the best out of your speaker.

It can be really off putting for a speaker, equally they also have a job to do, which is to keep you engaged.

Next time, have a think about how you can help the speaker give you the most value.

Make it a worthwhile process for everyone. After all, it’s a small old world and you might get recognised later!




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