How to Read Your Audience

Sometimes, new public speakers ask me how to best judge an audience during a speech. Hearing this question impresses me because indicates that the speaker is making an effort to better engage with his or her audience.

Understanding your audience can assist you in many ways to be more compelling in the delivery of your speech and even cater your speech content to meet with your audience’s expectations. Your audience is constantly giving you feedback in non-verbal ways. Below are a few ways you can read your audience and be more receptive to their needs:

Non-Verbal Cues

Most of human communication is non-verbal. Research suggests that between 70% and 80% of the message is derived from non-verbal behavior. Effectively reading these non-verbal cues can be the difference between a mediocre delivery and a successful one. Being alert and aware of the audience reception and response will help us in assessing the reaction you are getting from your content. Is your audience tapping their toes or nodding off to sleep, are they crossing their arms or legs? What this tells you should be obvious when checked in the context of assessing your audience.

Body Language

Our body is an integral part of the message that is being delivered, most often louder than our words. As we referenced in the above research, in the variety of the communication components, body language is of a very high importance. Learning the skill of assessing an audience real-time, can be of critical importance to your success as a presenter. Do audience members lean forward as if falling asleep or cross their arms or legs? This is telling your loud an clear how your speech is being received  and should be “listened” to.

Eye Contact

When we are presenting a speech, how we use eye contact plays a very important role in how effective your delivery is. We use our eyes to engage, persuade and even direct attention. Often, we fail to “read” our audience as we present and thus fail to alter our content to more effectively fit their needs. Have you ever seen the bored nearly asleep gaze of an audience member? I certainly hope not, but if you did, you should take that as direct feedback that you should be heeding. The audience speaks with their eye contact feedback, it is up to you to correctly interpret and modify your presentation to be most effective.

So remember to always read your audience. When presenting, you should use the insights you get from non-verbal, body language and eye contact. They are very valuable feedback and you shouldn’t miss it. This will make you a very successful public speaker but only if you pay attention to it. As you present, you are receiving valuable feedback – don’t forget to “listen.”


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Gus German is a Certified Professional Public Speaker and Senior Trainer at FEARLESS SPEAKERS, a Sydney- based, a public speaking training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. Gus is also a Certified Project Manager and has a background in Electronics Engineering. He also worked as a Counsellor over many years and specialises in Exposure Therapy
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