Sitting in the Audience Before You Speak

Recently I spoke to an educator’s conference in Las Vegas. I was the closing speaker of the conference, following lunch. I chose to attend the general session before lunch—lobbyists giving an update on what would be brought to the floor in the next legislative session.

As I sat and listened, I noticed the high interest level of some while others were busy on their iPhones and Androids. Some were taking notes and others were nodding their heads as they listened. As the next speaker, I now knew the context in which I would be speaking. This mix of interest could be how they felt about the topic, or I might need to work harder in my speech to keep their attention.

As I sat down, I met the person next to me. I asked him how he was doing and his answer was “I’m great.”  That response was the punch line for a story I was planning to use in my speech about superlatives when someone asks you how you are doing. I think an enthusiastic response is preferable to “I’m OK,” or “I’m fine.”   When I started giving the example, I pointed to him and said his name as one who already made use of this technique.

During the session, the panelists mentioned a few people in the audience who had played an important role in the organization’s success. I connected faces with those names as they were asked to raise their hands to be identified.

During the meeting, several proper nouns were mentioned in reference to the association as well as issues important to the group. New information was covered  that  I had not been given during my preparation for this specific audience.

Attending the session before my own presentation was an excellent way to learn more about my audience. I now knew someone in the audience who was an example of one of my points. I understood better the dynamics of the audience in their ability to pay attention. I knew who some of the “movers an shakers” were who would be in my audience. I was confident in the way to pronounce some of their important terms. I knew to say “Ne-vaaa-da” instead of “Ne-vah-da.”

Getting to your speaking venue early to sit in the same audience you will be speaking to provides invaluable information to make your presentation even more effective.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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