How to bore and disengage 1000 people (or not!)

Thou shalt tell the audience what’s in it for them. It’s all about the audience. Audience! Audience! Audience!

The first Noblahblah Commandment

Several years ago, I attended a meeting of a large organization, with more than 1000 people in an auditorium. The chairman was in his late 50s, a successful business man in a grey suit. He was scheduled to speak for 15 minutes. And he did! In fact, he spoke for 20 minutes, and 30, and 35, and what seemed like forever and ever, amen.

Napping, daydreaming, chuckling

Video shots of the speaker were projected onto screens around the room, as were shots of the audience. The best part was watching the audience. Initially they were focused on the speaker. But as he rambled on, they all drifted off.

This led to a fascinating display of audience disengagement, for everyone to see on the screens. People were napping, gazing around the room, daydreaming, whispering to each other, and chuckling at the spectacle of audience disengagement going on around them.

500 hours of waste

Now, this was obviously a smart guy in a position of responsibility. But he had a total lack of audience awareness. I don’t remember a word he said. All I remember is the disengaged audience.

So 1000 people invested one-half hour in this, and didn’t get the message. That’s 500 hours of waste. Think of what the organization could achieve with 500 hours.

Audience! Audience! Audience!

How can you avoid this waste and embarrassment? Be highly audience focused. Be on a mission to connect with the audience and tell them what’s in it for them.

He are 3 mechanics to help:
• The obvious one
• The tough one
• The fun one

The obvious one: address audience benefits or pain explicitly

Explicitly address how the audience will benefit from your message. And address the pain (disadvantages) the audience will experience if they are not persuaded by your message.

Of course it’s good to find creative ways to share your message. Tell stories. Share best and worst cases. But make the benefits and pain clear.

The tough one: get the basics right

One of the basics is manage audience expectations. The audience expected a 15-minute presentation. They got a 35-minute presentation. That disconnect, and not his message, became the focus of everyone in the room.

Another basic is respect the audience’s time. Invest your time to write, write and rewrite. Keep condensing. When you’ve got your presentation down to short and snappy, remove 10%. Your audience will get the message and love you for it. The best presentation is a little bit short.

The fun one: connect by interacting

Do something, anything, to connect with the audience.

• Ask them questions and for a show of hands
• Connect to one of the sites, such as kahoot, that let the audience respond to questions on their cell phones, and display the results on screen for all to see
• Give them exercises to do 2-on-2 or in small groups When you interact with the audience, you cannot ignore their reactions or interests. It’s fun. And you build your message on these dynamics. You connect and focus on what’s in it for them.

Noblahblah from you

What is your favorite technique to focus on the audience? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Send them to Or sign up for one of our workshops at

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