Flying Solo Banner

Thursday, 01 September 2016 02:19

During your presentation, why should you listen to your audience?

Written by

Should you listen to your audience? Of course!For far too long, many presenters believe that delivering a presentation is a one-way process. The presenter delivers the goods and the audience passively receives them.

It may have been that way once upon a time. Nowadays, audiences have higher expectations of presenters. They expect the presentation to be interactive and they expect to be able to ask questions of the presenter.

The basics of communication is as follows: A delivers a message to BB receives it and responds to A. If B doesn’t receive the message in the first place, communication hasn’t taken place. If B does receive the message but chooses not to respond to A, then communication has occurred but A does not receive any feedback.

When presenting i.e. communicating to your audience, listening to your audience is only one of the tasks that you need to be doing.

The most obvious reason to listen to your audience, at least to me, is to ensure they are awake. Snoring is a good clue that your presentation and topic aren’t as exciting as you would believe. More than one audience member snoring is even a more startling observation. Not in my presentations of course … but I have seen it many times in others.

As a presenter you need to listen to your audience and perhaps direct your presentation to meet the audience’s needs, not necessarily yours.

Depending on the structure of your presentation you can allow questions as you proceed through your material or you can wait until the end. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you allow questions throughout your presentation you need to allow time for the questions, your answers and additional dialogue. This can take up time so you likely need to plan on delivering less content than you might have expected.

On the other hand, if you plan for questions and don’t get them, you may finish earlier than you planned. Another often experienced problem when allowing questions throughout the program is ‘railroading.’ I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase but it means that an audience member has taken your presentation in a direction that you hadn’t planned or wanted to go in.

Waiting to answer questions until the end, while possibly helping the flow of your perspective, can have a negative impact. If an audience member is focussed on a particular question from earlier in your presentation, then they are not keeping up to you in your current delivery.

As I said, listening is only one task that you need to be doing as a presenter. Most North Americans likely speak at a rate of 150 to 175 words a minute. We make speak faster when we are excited but we risk losing some of our audience members who can’t keep up to us.

Or minds work at over 1000 words a minute, or even faster. At the same time that we are listening to the audience and delivering our material, we need to be thinking of many other things. Examples: Does the audience seem to be getting my message? Is the room too hot or cold? Am I boring them? Have I lost them? Is there anybody that seems particularly excited about my topic and presentation? I think you get the idea here.

While you are presenting, you also need to be multitasking in your mind. This is where the feedback comes in. You need to be constantly assessing your audience. Of course, as the size of the audience increases, it becomes exponentially difficult to do so.

Thanks for the question!

as originally answered on

Pin it
Rae Stonehouse

Author Bio:

Rae A. Stonehouse is a Canadian born author & speaker. His professional career as a Registered Nurse working predominantly in psychiatry/mental health, has spanned four decades.

Rae has embraced the principal of CANEI (Constant and Never-ending Improvement) as promoted by thought leaders such as Tony Robbins and brings that philosophy to each of his publications and presentations.

Rae has dedicated the latter segment of his journey through life to overcoming his personal inhibitions. As a 20+ year member of Toastmasters International he has systematically built his self-confidence and communicating ability. He is passionate about sharing his lessons with his readers and listeners. His publications thus far are of the self-help, self-improvement genre and systematically offer valuable sage advice on a specific topic. He is a long-time member of Kelowna Flying Solo Toastmasters and is the driving force behind its long-term success. 

His writing style can be described as being conversational. As an author Rae strives to have a one-to-one conversation with each of his readers, very much like having your own personal self-development coach. Rae is known for having a wry sense of humour that features in his publications.

Author of Self-Help Downloadable E-Books:

Power Networking for Shy PeoplePower Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly!

PROtect Yourself!PROtect Yourself! Empowering Tips & Techniques for Personal Safety: A Practical Violence Prevention Manual for Healthcare Workers.

E=Emcee SquaredE=Emcee SquaredTips & Techniques to Becoming a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies.

Power of PromotionPower of Promotion: On-line Marketing for Toastmasters Club Growth


Phone Rae 250-451-6564 or

Rae’s social … are you?


Linkedin? Rae is

Copyright 2015 & 2016 Rae Stonehouse. The above document may be freely copied and distributed as long as the author’s name and contact info remain attached.

To learn more about Rae A. Stonehouse, visit the Wonderful World of Rae Stonehouse at http://raestonehouse.com