You walk off stage to thunderous applause and pat yourself on the back. You nailed it. The audience was with you and they loved you. But did they really? How do you know?

One of the first speeches I gave felt like this. Until I got my feedback. “She didn’t know who we were or what we do”. Yikes! I had no idea they felt this way. But the truth is, they were right. I had spent so much time perfecting the craft of my speech but I didn’t spend any time getting to know who the audience was or whether they would like or even need the material. I never made that mistake again.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell from their reactions or their applause how an audience really feels. So how do you find out?

  • Ask the meeting planner – Meeting planners will usually get feedback about a speaker so they know what kinds of things the audience likes or doesn’t like. Some of the feedback is brought up in the wrap-up meetings after an event. If you’re brave, you could call or email them to find out what kind of feedback they got. If it’s positive, great! If it’s negative, you need to know so you can improve.
  • Look on Twitter – It was only when I started checking the event hashtags that I discovered some great feedback from an event that I thought the audience hated. They didn’t really participate in the interactive portion and I had a hard time getting people to even raise their hands for questions. But it turns out they were a shy group, which explains why most people were sitting in the back of the room and didn’t want to be called on. But they put all kinds of praise on Twitter. I had no idea.
  • Ask the audience – This is also tricky, but I tried it after the last speech I gave. I asked people in the audience one on one if there was any information in the speech that they could use in their own organizations. I not only got an idea of the things they could and couldn’t implement, but they gave me ideas for other content to look into. If you’re doing a breakout or your own events you can give people a feedback form to fill out.

If you really take the time to know and understand your audience’s needs you should be getting good feedback from them. Audience feedback isn’t a one time thing, but should be done after every speech. The more you know, the more you will improve as a speaker.


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