I recently responded to blog post about public speaking and the topic was on “should a speaker thank the audience”? The writer of the blog said absolutely not, that a speaker shouldn’t thank them before or after giving a speech. There were a couple of different responses to that. I personally thought that it would be rude and arrogant not to thank them.

I’ve since found out that that is a hotly debated topic amongst professional speakers. So I really gave it some thought and weighed out the pros and cons of each argument. My first thought was that, of course you thank your audience. But I guess it really depends on how. And each situation is different. Plus, do you thank them in the beginning or at the end or both?

I did go through Toastmasters when I first started, but apparently Toastmasters has a thing against thanking the audience. I must say, I don’t remember this ever being an issue and I’m pretty sure I did thank them with out getting “fined”.

I come from a theater background and I’ve never left a stage without thanking the audience. But this is done in a final curtain call, which most speakers don’t have. If you notice, comedians and singers always thank the audience. Why shouldn’t a speaker?

Of course there aren’t any rules for speakers that say you have to do anything. That’s the beauty of being a public speaker. You’re the writer, director, producer and star of your own productions. You can do anything you want, but the ultimate decision is with the audience. So, here’s my take on it.

Whoever you’re speaking to could have hired anyone to grace their stage. But they hired you. So I see that as an honor and a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when you consider that a lot of speakers make more money in one hour than the average worker makes in a whole month. I’m always thankful when they pick me.

The audience could be anywhere, but they chose to listen to your speech. I get as much from the audience as they get from me. I always learn from them. For that I’m thankful.

I’m not saying you have to open by thanking them or even thanking the presenter, if that slows you down. But at least thank them at the end for showing up and participating. You can end with a dynamic ending and then just give a quick thank you as you leave. It won’t detract from your speech, but it will leave the audience with a good feeling about you.

And besides, it’s just good manners. But that’s how I was raised in the South. Well, that’s my two cents. What do you think?


25 Responses to “Should a Speaker Thank The Audience?”

  1. Richard G. Aves says:

    It depends is the simple answer, yes it’s good manners to thank people but for what ?
    You are doing all the work, are you selling yourself products or services?
    Are you making a political point or is it a rant about something which you feel very strongly about. Thank You seems to weaken whatever point you were trying to make.Are you asking or telling. Churchill and Hitler weren’t known for their thank you.
    So I think it’s good practice to not to thank if it’s a speech – and making a point !
    Is it a social occasion, after dinner, luncheon event ?This is where I seem to witness most of the thank you brigade usually from amateur speakers.
    Professional training should always offer good practice and that is why the Speakers Clubs advocate that thank you is a bad habit and weakens the end of a speech.
    As always know your audience be appropriate for the occasion and if one slips out – it’s not the end of the world, so be it ! – Thank you – whoopps !!

  2. adolph says:

    Hi Julie

    Yes Toastmasters has this thing about thanking the audience as they believe/preach they its up to them to thank you for doing the speech –
    Well as a Professional Having been through the TM mill for 30 years I can tell you that a thank you usually leads to a second invitation and or GIG so yes I thank them and I usually couple that with a sweetener such as –
    “I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing this with you, thank you for your time and I invite you to get a copy of this talk on my web site should you like it .”

    Works for me so I will carry on doing it and I do tell my old TM friends that they need to change their habits that are sometimes 80 years outdated 😉

  3. Makheni Zonneveld says:

    Thanks Julie – you used the most important word that is unfortunately getting out of fashion ‘manners’

  4. Jodi Blackwood says:

    Julie, well said — thank you. I believe it is important to thank an audience at the close of my presentation for their time and attention, both of which are in very short supply anymore. I appreciate the fact that they paid attention and weren’t talking to others or checking email the entire time, as we see so many people do, regardless of who is speaking. As a Business Etiquette Specialist, I agree — it is simply good manners.

  5. Julie Austin says:

    Jodi, business etiquette sounds like something that is very much needed today. And a unique area to specialize in.

  6. Mark Greer says:

    I will always say thank you at the end to the audience. That’s just my personality. They gave up their time to hear your message. Saying thank you is professional, respectful and simply the right thing to do. Just my opinion.

  7. Rafael Ayala says:

    I think if you do it or not, both ways speak of you not only as speaker, but as a person too. Obviously how you do it its important.

  8. Nancy P. Ottaviano says:

    Gratitude and genuine good manners go along way. “Thank you” does not diminish your message.

  9. Roger Julie says:

    As a relatively new Toastmaster member I have just recently heard about the no Thank You at the end of a speech. I appreciate the response from both sides of the issue.

  10. Walter M. Farrer says:

    To me it is simple, be nice to your audience, be nice to your client, be grateful and polite. If you can’t be a powerful speaker and be polite, maybe you are not as powerful of a speaker. Hitler and Churchil were government leaders, most of us are powerful communicators serving our audience. Go Julie!

  11. JD Dunbar says:

    My goal is to target the audience. After my final (hopefully resonant) point, I genuinely say, “Thank you for your kind and gracious attention.” The manner of this delivery is metaphorically with the same warmth I would extend in a handshake.

  12. Faith McKinney says:

    I’ve always been taught not to Thank the audience. My Toastmasters club frowns upon it.

  13. Craig Senior says:

    I often thank the audience for:
    – sharing this time with me
    – their kind attention
    – enthusiastic participation
    – creative ideas
    – sharing these ideas with other people

  14. Anthony Simeone says:

    I’m also a Toastmaster, and I’ve been told by my fellows that saying “thank you” as the last words of a speech is not a good tactic. I think we need a deeper exploration of the “why” of this phenomenon, however.

    The intention is not to be rude or adhere to some outdated notion that the audience should be thankful to the speaker instead of the other way around. No, the true intention is to train Toastmasters to create good endings for their speeches. A good conclusion, delivered well, will indicate to the audience that the speech is over and it’s time to applaud. Simply relying on a “thank you” to alert them to the speech being over is “lazy speechwriting.”

    So the intention is not about not thanking the audience, but rather doing it creatively. I’ve said thank you to my Toastmaster audiences during speeches, but as part of a line such as “I thank all of you for interest and enthusiasm tonight, as I went through the steps in my proposed program.” That’s a bit more creative than just saying “thank you” when I’m done talking.

  15. Peter Lipsey says:

    As a stand-up comedian since 1989, the one thing I know is that if there is no audience, there is no show. At the VERY LEAST, anyone speaking to an audience should end with, “Thanks for listening.”

    It is that simple.

    ps. thanks for taking the time to read this!

  16. Phil Stella says:

    Julie, thanks for starting a most interesting conversation.

    There are very few rules for professional speakers. One I’ve lived by for over 25 years is to always operate with uncommon courtesy. That suggests saying ‘Thank You’ when you get a gift. And an old Sicilian proverb warns that you should never insult the gift giver by refusing it or devaluing it.

    That said, the event organizer gave us a gift by inviting us to speak, whether for fee or for free. Then, the audience gave us a gift when they showed up and stuck around. And, if we’ve met their expectations, they gave us another gift with their reactions, participation and applause.

    So, I always thank them for the invitation during my intro and for their enthusiastic participation during my summary. Works for me. Works for them. Works for my Sicilian traditions.

  17. Greg Esres says:

    I find it embarrassing when a speaker thanks me for listening. To me, it communicates that the speaker doesn’t think that what she has to say is valuable, and we the audience are only there to feed her ego. It reveals insecurity.

    More importantly, all this expressed gratitude is simply boring. Pure noise. I’d much rather you start off saying something interesting, or I’d prefer to be reading a book (none of which ever starts off by thanking me for reading it.)

    One thing to keep in mind is that boring speakers can always justify the characteristics of their presentations that make them boring, but never seem to grasp that their reasons are irrelevant. They simply are thinking incorrectly.

  18. Julie Austin says:

    Wow, really Greg? Expressed gratitude is boring and pure noise? And reveals insecurity? And they don’t have anything valuable to say? Wow! The most secure people I know, know the value of the words “please” and “thank you”. Any time I think I’ve reached the point of being too jaded in life I’m going to go back and read this comment.

  19. Greg Esres says:

    “Expressed gratitude is boring and pure noise? ”

    Julie, please read my comment carefully. It’s FEELING gratitude for a speaking engagement that is insecurity. If you have something important to say, it’s they who should feel gratitude.

    When people provide valuable services to me, I pay them and I thank them. When they thank me, it comes across as obsequious, and makes their services look less valuable. See “cognitive dissonance”. People value you to the degree that you value yourself.

  20. Julie Austin says:

    I would only see a grateful speaker as being obsequious if they also brought me coffee and bussed my table. A simple thank you before leaving the stage is just common courtesy, something that is lacking in today’s society. I guess I’m missing the connection between gratitude and insecurity.

    Unfortunately your last statement is usually sadly true. Way too many people equate arrogance with value. I’m not one of them. When I worked as a TV/film distributor we had a lot of celebrities to choose from when casting a film. I would never hire the ones that were arrogant and ungrateful, no matter how big they were. There is always someone out there with more talent, who is better looking, has more credentials, and is also a grateful and humble human being. But that’s just my two cents.

  21. Merri Bame says:

    We speakers know the power of body language and tone over words. If “thanks” shows through in these areas, we have thanked our audience without saying so. Concluding our topic strongly with our words, pausing and acknowledging with a bow does the trick.

  22. Athar Sajid says:

    I am a regular speaker on Motivation, Behavior and Attitude. Its surprising for me to see ardent speakers questioning the simple act of passing a gesture of gratitude. There’s hardly a talk for me which ends without an uproarious applause. I clap with them and appreciate their appreciation and thank them for being active participation making it a lively session. Its extremely difficult for me not to respond to their gratitude.

  23. Rum Charles says:

    I live in Australia and most of my work as a speaker takes place in Australia. The idea of not thanking the audience would be seen as exceptional rude here, its important to acknowledge the audience and their participation in the event, no audience no speaker, simple as that.

  24. Julie Austin says:

    This is why I love the Aussies, Rum! Very friendly and courteous.

  25. Michael Rankin says:

    I wish I had time now to review all the comments – I will later. So this may be a repeat. However, I will (virtually) always thank the audience, as I feel their time is AT LEAST as valuable as mine, and I appreciate their attention.

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