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Are you insulting your audience?

When you underestimate the intelligence, interest, gratitude or expectations of your audience, you undermine your effectiveness as a speaker.
Photo: Allen Penton, Design: Carma Spence

So many speakers, whether in Long Beach or Long Island or beyond, underestimate their audience and therefore inadvertently insult them. If you do this, it will undermine your message and weaken your call to action.

There are several ways to underestimate an audience. Here are a few:

Audiences are often more intelligent or well educated than speakers give them credit for. It is almost better to compliment an audience by thinking they are smarter than they are, than the other way around. However, do your homework so that you can speak to them at their own level … or at least the level equal to the average of the audience.

Many speakers, especially newer ones, believe that the audience is there to find fault in their presentation and pick them apart. This leads many to suffer from a fear of speaking. Of course, hostile audiences do exist, but on average most audiences want you to succeed. They want to see you shine and are grateful that you are sharing your expertise. They want to be entertained and enlightened by what you have to say. They want you to be a great (or at least decent) speaker. It is a rare person who actually wants you to fall flat on your face.

Sometimes speakers underestimate the interest the audience has in their topic. Therefore, they go out of their way to “add interest” to their presentation. Humor, props, bells and whistles all have their place … but they need to appropriate to the topic at hand. For most presentations, the audience chose to be there. They are interested in the topic.

Some speakers believe that the audience expects them to know everything about their topic. Of course your audience hopes and expects you to know more than they do. But often, they are just as pleased if you just know different things about the topic. Their main expectation is that they will leave your presentation with at least a nugget or two of information they didn’t have before. So give them your best.

Would you like more information about public speaking? Visit for tips, advice and plenty of videos about all the "powers" you can employ in your speaking endeavors.

NOTE: Are you a Long Beach based speaker? Do you know of an upcoming speaking event? Contact me to have an interview with you published in this column.

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