No need to be worried.
Garrett had done this exact same speech before.
Even so, his heart was beating at a million miles an hour. Why did he feel weird this time? The audience was somewhat different to usual but Garrett knew exactly what he had to say. He knew exactly where he needed to pause, where to emphasize, where to speak softly, where to speak slowly. Give him 60 seconds and he’d have the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
The MC said his name and Garrett Finch strode onto the stage to a round of applause.
He raised his arms, made his usual introductory comment. Garrett paused and waited for the expected audience response.
Slightly unnerved, he pushed on.
35 minutes later, 10 minutes longer than normal, Garrett finished his speech and left the stage. He needed a drink. He needed some time to think about what just happened. The audience had been unresponsive. They hadn’t reacted at any of the strategic points where audiences usually laugh. They’d given him no feedback at all.
What had happened?
Garrett’s speech was good, no question. He has delivered the speech many times in the past. Each time he has received positive audience feedback.
So, what was different this time?
Because Garrett has received only positive feedback on his speech to date he’s never stopped to consider his audience. He’s just been luck so far. He’s never had an audience that didn’t give him his expected reaction.
Here’s the thing:
No matter how well you deliver speeches, every audience is different. Unless you are tailoring your speech to the audience in question, nothing else matters.
We can talk about concepts such as self-confidence, vocal emphasis, pacing, visual communication, hooks, rhetorical questions, movement, the lot. But none of it makes a shred of difference unless we understand the audience and deliver our speech based on what they need and want to hear.
Before you prepare any part of your speech, think about the following things:
- Who is my audience?
- Are they native speakers?
- What is the general age of the audience?
- What is the audience’s position relative to mine?
- Is the audience under time pressure?
- What is my audience’s biggest frustration?
- What does my audience need to know about the topic?
- What action do I want the audience to take following my talk?
If you answer these questions upfront your speech will be better received. Even if you are delivering a speech you have done many times before it always pays to think about your audience and adjust if necessary.