Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

The Power of the Audience - Part 1 of 2

The Power of Being a Great Audience

Ready for another incredibly important method to become a great public speaker? Be a great audience. Yes, you heard us right. Being a great audience can make you a better public speaker for a lot of reasons.

First and foremost, being a great audience here in Pspeak will help you learn. Because you'll be helping others learn, and others will be helping you learn, it's a mutually beneficial relationship. Perhaps nowhere else is the audience so important in this way than in Pspeak.

For starters, Pspeak is a community made up of people just like you who are here to improve their public speaking skills. That means you'll find great support as you work to improve yours, especially if you happen to be working through some anxiety, which many people here are. Simply by being supportive of others and understanding the process they are going through, you'll be helping them. And they'll be helping you in return.

That's a wonderful thing. On a more technical level, because so many people here in Pspeak will have learned from the substantial content available, they will have become qualified in a sense to give meaningful feedback to your practice presentations.

In fact, Pspeak members won't just give GENERAL feedback. There will be many times a member offers a specific suggestion. For instance, an audience member might hear a practice presentation and recommend particular training modules for further improvement. THAT is the power of the audience. And at the risk of sounding self aggrandizing, that is the power of Pspeak.

Let's review some specific things to keep in mind when you are LISTENING to a fellow member and providing feedback to them. With these concepts and steps in mind, you will help others in their quest to become great presenters, and others will help you in yours.

1) Become a Master

If you have mastered the content related to public speaking, you will not only become successful at public speaking, you will be able to help others greatly in their quest. If ALL members take this approach by mastering the content, by default, all members will have the additional benefit of getting quality, specific feedback about their presentations. Therefore, please check out the Learning Path and follow all the steps when you can.

2) Be Constructive and Specific

Next, feedback in the Pspeak practice area should ideally be specific, as opposed to general. Notice we're making a specific point...about being specific. When you are giving feedback, general feedback can be helpful, especially when compared with no feedback, but specific is more powerful. Instead of only saying something general like "good job", try to call on your knowledge and offer some feedback related to something you learned.

For example, if you feel the presenter could benefit from more time spent on writing their presentation, say something like "I see an opportunity for you in the writing area. Have you checked out the 'How to write a great presentation' section'? If not, you should check it out. Other aspects of your presentation were strong; this is an area that you have the opportunity to do even better."

For another example, if you listen to a presenter who seems very uninterested about their topic, you could reference 'Find Passion', the module about tapping into the power of being passionate about your subject and using intrinsic motivations.

By the way, you may have noticed that we used the term "opportunity" a couple of times when discussing making recommendations to other members. No one wants to hear "You were weak" when getting feedback. This can take critical confidence away from those working towards their next live presentation. By saying "there's an opportunity", it puts a positive spin on it that isn't demeaning. NO ONE minds an opportunity. An opportunity is a "call to action", a moment when life can change for the better. Almost everyone likes to hear what they can do BETTER next time. Few people like hearing what they did POORLY. The wording can make all the difference.

3) Take it Easy

Next up, be gentle. Since we're talking about being specific, and giving recommendations to content, and telling people in essence that they can do better, we should point out that it's ideal to be gentle. This isn't the military, it's not a "rigorous" educational institution. It's a warm, supportive environment of like-minded people from literally anyplace on earth helping one another solve one of the greatest, most common fears known to mankind, the fear of public speaking. Tread gently. Thank you.

4) Be Appreciative

Next, show gratitude to those speaking for sharing their thoughts and feelings with others. When a person gets up in front of an audience and opens up about things they are passionate about, shares details that are often personal, takes a risk in a sense by sharing their inner selves to the audience, and so on, that's worthy of gratitude.

We'll reference another presentation that we spoke about elsewhere in Pspeak to illustrate this point. In the section on speaking in civic situations, for example a town hall meeting, we touched on the story of a woman who appealed to her school board for some changes to the security at her children's school. She happened to be a state police officer, aside from a mother, the combination of which made her uniquely qualified to deliver her presentation. In the other module, we explained that sometimes it's not the presenter, but rather the audience, if the presentation didn't get the expected response.

This brave woman got up in front of roughly 50 people that night, including the school board, the school superintendent, her peers, members of the press, other law enforcement officials, and other parents. She spoke for about 45 minutes. She started out a little nervous, but being the tough woman that she is, she hung in there. She gradually gained momentum by digging into facts, finding key points that she was very passionate about, and more. By the time her presentation had finished, she had made a complete, passionate, logical appeal for the things she had wanted to see happen.

As the presentation concluded, unfortunately to mostly blank stares from those in charge of making decisions, there was at least one voice of reason on the school board. He took back the floor and said a simple thing that was entirely appropriate. He said thank you.

He thanked her for her time, for her ideas, for her efforts, and for caring. It was a beautiful thing to hear one person acknowledge another for having done something so difficult and noble. And note that we say "difficult" not because we think all public speaking needs to be difficult, but because going to the "well", to the depths of concern and emotion that this mother did WAS difficult. It's not so easy to look within, especially in front of an audience. The best thing any audience can do when someone is so generous is to simply but clearly say "thank you for sharing your views and ideas with us. Thank you."