This audience does not want to be listening to you. This could be for many reasons, from not liking the organisation you are representing, to wanting to get home and watch their favourite TV show. They can be openly hostile and disagree with you. If you know you’ll be faced with this audience (e.g. you have the last slot of a busy day of presentation), consider the following:
Often at technical conferences, you get critical people who believe they are extremely intelligent and relish the thought of proving part of your presentation incorrect. Use the following techniques:
This is the most common type of audience you will encounter. They might know a little about your presentation topic but certainly not in great detail.
This audience is willing to listen and wants to be there. They can be interested in your topic, excited to see you talk (you might be a well-known figure in your speaking field), have an emotional attachment – these people are the easiest to persuade.
People checking their watches? Make sure you understand the situation your audience is in. If your presentation is the last of the day, you’ll most likely have a hostile audience. Take this into account and structure your speech accordingly.
Speaking to angry protesters? Make sure you understand the type of audience you will be up against and build you speech accordingly.
Analytical – 100% accurate, chronology, don’t rush, focus on facts, internally focussed, distant from others, systematic, critical
Driver – 100% task, headlines, don’t waste time, focus on action, future focused, leading others, quick to decide, impatient
Amiable – 100% social, relationships, don’t intimidate, focus on feelings, present focused, asks questions, dislike conflict, support, kind
Expressive – 100% impulsive, vision & ideas, don’t limit, focus on themes, externally focused, makes statements, competitive & chaotic, unpredictable, energetic
If possible, stand near the entrance and greet people as they come in. Ask them questions to gauge their level of knowledge and expectations. Example questions can be “what industry are working in?” and “how long they have been working at…”
Ask carefully prepared questions at the beginning of you speech to understand the mood and experience of the audience. You could ask “Raise your hand if you have used a virtual reality headset before” for example.
Read up about the conference you are attending. Find out what the other presentations are about and how they might relate to your speech. This gives you an idea of how technical and prepared your audience might be.
For additional information on understanding your audience, read:
Greeting people before the event is a great way to network with people, as well as gauging their level of interest and understanding of your presentation topic.