In any and every presentation, your audience will tell you how far you can take it, and where you can’t take it. You’re job is to listen. I know that sounds counter-intuitive because during the presentation you’re the one doing the talking. But you also have to listen from the front of the room.
Last weekend, I served as the master of ceremony for the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader Tryouts. Hold the tough job jokes, please. Spending the better part of three hours working the stage on a subject you don’t know much about in front of a packed house requires a lot of ad-libbing and a lot of listening. That’s right, listening.
I paid close attention to the feedback I got as we went through the program. The crowd responded strongly when I did spontaneous interviews with the contestants. So I did more of those. The crowd went wild over the chance to win free t-shirts when I asked a few trivia questions. More of that. When a competitive question arose on stage, I called on an expert in our panel of judges to explain what to look for since I had no idea what to look for. And when I cracked a slightly off-color joke and I got no response, I made the mental note, less of that. No, actually, no more of that. I listened to the audience.
At the time, I thought it odd that an audience at an NFL cheerleader competition would go silent on a mildly off-color remark, but I listened to the audience and didn’t go there again. Later on I found out why. A lot of people in the audience had brought young daughters to the show. I couldn’t see that from the stage with bright lights, but I could hear that.
You can too.
The next time you’re in front of the room don’t just talk to your audience, listen to your audience too. It can help prevent your presentation from getting too far off track.