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Why You Don’t Want Your Audience to Applaud


I recently facilitated a workshop with World Champion of Public Speaking Dwayne Smith. In the section of the program about the fear of public speaking, Dwayne asked the workshop participants to take a few minutes to visualize what they heard, what they saw, and what they felt after a successful presentation.

What do you suppose the workshop participants said they saw and heard?

As professional speakers, we facilitators guessed we’d hear the participants say they saw and heard their audience applauding.   But surprisingly one common answer we heard was “silence” – as in the audience was contemplating and processing what they’d heard.  I LOVE that answer!  The reason I LOVE that answer is, it’s not about the speaker and getting the speaker accolades.  It’s about the audience!

Why Are You Speaking?

In the workshop, we had people who spoke for various reasons.  One woman was a leader in a Fortune 500 company who had to do presentations related to changes within the business.  One man was a leader of a non-profit organization who worked with several local ministries.  One woman did workshops on parenting.  Each of those individuals don’t do presentations because they want to be the center of attention.  They do presentations to help a cause – to have more success in business (which keeps people employed) – to help people in need (because we all need a little help at some point in our lives) – to help people be better parents (and don’t we want children to have good parents?).  None of those objects were about themselves and looking good in front of an audience.  It was about doing work that they were good at so that others could benefit.

So maybe a standing ovation is not the sign that you’ve done a good job as a presenter.  Maybe instead, you look out and see… people writing notes to themselves about a change they’re going to make… people picking up the phone to call the prospect they’ve been afraid to hear “no” from… people getting out their checkbooks to write you a big check!  Whatever your goal for your presentation is, keep that in mind.  And be thrilled when your presentation is greeted with silence.

What Do You Think?  Do You Agree?

Have you had an experience where you were greeting with silence… and that was a great thing?  Tell us about your experience.

Or if you disagree, let us know that too!  Tell us why you don’t think silence is the best response to your presentation!