So, the kid in the front row slept through your tour. And the guy in the back was clearly texting and not paying attention to you. It was probably not your best effort. But it might have been had the audience helped by doing their part. It’s hard to put your whole heart into it when the audience isn’t even trying to act interested.
No one likes presenting to a lifeless, disinterested audience. A great presentation experience requires a great audience as well as a solid presenter. While you may be on fire, trying to give the speech or tour of your life, the audience still has the choice of how they will respond. One or two bad attitudes in the audience can affect everyone there. Conversely, just one or two engaged audience members – those who are smiling, leaning in, nodding, asking questions – can infect everyone with their attitude, including and especially the presenter. I’ve had people in my audiences who are smiling or even cheering with just their eyes, and that has brought the best out in me.
So, what can you do about a lousy audience. Well, certainly, you can take on the challenge of trying to turn them around. Ask them questions. Engage them. Be funny. Expect them to come alive.
You can also work on building some solid audience karma. I know you all put your best into your presentations, but make sure that when you are in the audience or a class, you are doing your best to be great there, too. You reap what you sow, and I’m convinced you’re more likely to get great audiences in your tours or presentations if you regularly make an effort to be a great audience member (or class member) yourself. It’s karma, you know. So look alive in class. Ask questions. Smile at the instructor. Put down the crossword puzzle or sudoku. Even if you’re truly not interested, fake it. Start acting like this is the most fascinating lecture you’ve ever witnessed, and the presenter just might come alive a little more because of you.