Tales from the Road: Awkward Audiences?
Note the question mark! Inevitably – no matter how many times you go down well as a speaker – there are times when you feel “it could have gone better”! Happily such occasions are rare … and complete disasters even rarer!
The phrase “tough crowd” is sometimes used by a speaker or comedian to lay the blame for a below par performance on the audience…. but is there such a thing as a “bad audience”? The great Paul Daniels (still one of the best “live” performers I have ever seen) maintains that there isn’t – only a bad performer.
I tend to agree. It’s up the speaker/performer to take into account all the factors that can affect the outcome of their presentation – and adjust accordingly. Thus if the venue is “awkward” (as described in my previous 3 posts), or if it’s too hot or cold … or the audience has been drinking … or sitting through several other speeches and an awards ceremony before you (and need the loo!) … or all of the above – as a professional you just have to deal with it!
I always find that doing your research helps – knowing the audience and what the event is for always helps you “connect”. Personalising a speech is a sure fire way to show you care – and that you have taken the trouble to “do your homework”. After all – it’s all about the audience – not you!
As a professional speaker it is also up to you to solve problems relating to the venue – and if they are not ideal (they rarely are!) to deal with the situation as best you can. You need to take charge – and if possible tweak the things that might cause problems. It may be something as simple as choosing a different place to stand when you speak – or moving some tables to ensure better sight lines – or even suggesting you speak in a different time slot – e.g. before an awards ceremony rather than after. Event organisers will thank you for not being a “prima donna” and credit you with “finding a way to make it work” – and thus making their job easier!
However… despite the foregoing comments… it is nevertheless a fact that there are times when the audience is not right for you (notice I am not blaming the audience!). It could be due to any of the factors mentioned above – or that you are simply not the right fit for the event. In which case you just have to “do your best” and put it down to experience!
One thought I always keep in mind before any speech is that “you are only as good as your next performance”. So no matter how well I have gone down previously – I am always aware that the next one is the one that matters. This keeps me “grounded” – and focused on doing the best possible job – whatever distractions the audience – and me – are faced with!
If you are looking for an entertaining keynote or after-dinner speaker – especially in an unusual venue – please get in touch to discuss your event!