12 Most Tongue-in-Cheek Reasons Not to Worry About Your Audience

When my clients are nervous about speaking in front of an audience, they tend to exaggerate their own importance to their listeners. Here is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list to help you realize that, while you are in front of your audience, they each have their own world going on while listening to you.

  1. They need sleep: At least one-quarter of your audience members are sleep deprived. All they hope is that you’ll keep them awake.
    They are saying: Please be interesting enough so I don’t fall asleep and embarrass myself.
  2. They walked into the room already overwhelmed with data: As long as you don’t add to their confusion trying to assimilate and sort too much information, they will be content.
    They are thinking: Please don’t confuse my brain with more data that doesn’t really make sense to me.
  3. They’ve got to use your information: Some people have to do something with your information and they’re hoping you’ll make it easy for them to figure it out.
    They are begging you: Please – just clearly tell me the next steps.
  4. They are relieved they’re not the ones presenting: Many listeners are just glad they’re not up there having to talk. You can do almost anything as long as you don’t call on them.
    They are pleading: Please just leave me alone. Don’t embarrass me in front of these people.
  5. They want you to do well: Some people feel responsible for what goes on around them and are hoping you don’t act so nervous because that will make them very uncomfortable.
    They are anxiously wishing: Please behave so I don’t have to figure out how to rescue you.

  6. They are hungry: Some people are plotting how to get to the other side of the room for a chocolate-chip cookie. This also might keep them awake.
    They are distracted: Please just give us a two-minute stretch so I can bolt to those cookies.
  7. They need to go to the restroom: They are praying for some type of pause in your topic or someone asking a question so they can sneak out.
    They are hoping: Please take questions so I can unobtrusively get out of here.
  8. They want to show off, not listen to you: A couple of people want to impress someone in the room. They are waiting to interrupt you and show how smart they are.
    They are impatiently judging: Is this the right time to make my point?
  9. They’ve got to report on your presentation: Several are seriously listening as they have to report back on your talk’s content. They’re trying to figure out what to say back in the team meeting.
    They are wishing: Please make it easy for me to report in my staff meeting next week.
  10. They are daydreaming: Some are thinking about their new car, the baby at home, the great dinner they had last weekend, or their upcoming vacation.
    They are enjoying themselves: It’s great to have some time to daydream.
  11. They are generating new ideas: Some people’s brains are going overtime with new ideas you have given them.
    They are eagerly waiting to stand up and say: I’ve got a better idea about this situation. Here it is.
  12. Your boss is hoping you are successful: Your boss wants you to come across as smart, on top of the topic and confident.
    The boss is anxiously thinking: Yes, that’s it! Keep making the team look good. Just don’t goof up too badly.

    Given the nature of the fairly typical audience mix I just described, you really don’t have to worry about how much attention they are truly giving you – except, of course, for the people who have to report back or use your information. You may be standing in front of them, but the chances that are you are center stage inside their minds are maybe 50/50. So the next time you start getting anxious about a presentation, remember that your listeners have their own agendas going on. You will be able to relax, which of course will give you more confidence – and then you will capture the attention of more of your audience!

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