On Caring For Your Audience

“My audience was my life. What I did and how I did it was all for my audience.” –Cab Calloway

Click below to discover how to give your audience what they came for…

I had an epiphany about a year ago today. I had just finished giving a speech at my local Toastmasters club about my vacation at a Mexican beach resort. My story focused on my experiences related to the first time I tried zip-lining over water. Yes, there were hungry sharks below the zip-line. No, I didn’t fall in after bouncing off the pole because my braking mechanism failed. Surviving that day is certainly a thrill I’ll never forget. However, what happened immediately after giving that speech tops my zip-line adventure by far. Let me describe what happened.

The Toastmasters meeting ended and I entered the elevator to take it thirty floors down to the ground. A fellow club member congratulated me on a well-organized and compelling presentation. I said “thanks, I look forward to giving my next performance.” He said he did too. The elevator stops, we get out and part ways.

As I exited the building I was struck by just how unusual my comment to him was. First, I actually meant it when I said that I was looking forward to my next time on stage. And amazingly, I had said ‘performance’ instead of ‘speech’. I’ve never made that mistake before. What was happening to me?

Apparently, I had reached a milestone in my public speaking career. I no longer feared standing on stage offering personal stories to a room full of people. The change occurred for three primary reasons:

Embrace the Audience

I began to see them not a random bunch of critically-oriented individuals, but a group of friendly people who were interested in what I had to say.

Overcome Perfectionism

Realizing that my goal was to continuously improve my skills took a lot of pressure off me. This attitude let me try new ways of speaking. And if I ‘failed’, at least I learned what not to do the next time around.

Speaking is More than Words

I started to understand that performing is far more than giving a speech. Being aware of my connection with the audience made me realize I was obligated to provide them with more than just abstract ideas. I needed to support my words with the three ‘E’s of public speaking: emotion, expression and enthusiasm.

I came to realize that day that the key to a successful performance is to genuinely care about your audience. Give yourself ample time to consider who they are and why they’ve come to see you. They’ll appreciate your prep work and you’ll enjoy your time in the limelight.

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