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I presented yesterday at the opening session of the Collegiate Information & Visitor Services Association (CiVSA) annual conference. What a great audience. These are big-hearted people who are used to standing in front of audiences themselves. They were smiling and nodding from the beginning, interacting, responding to my questions. Laughing at my jokes. They were engaged and supportive. They made me a better speaker.

We tend to focus exclusively on a speaker’s impact on the audience. But the audience definitely can affect the speaker as well and shape the overall effect of the presentation quite dramatically. Imagine standing in front of a blank-faced audience, or worse, a distracted one. People staring at their devices instead of at you. It’s hard to give your best to an audience like that. But how often are you that kind of audience member?

Even a poor speaker will perform better with an encouraging audience. Connect with the speaker. Make eye contact. Smile. Nod. Laugh. Interact when asked. You want to enjoy the presentation so put some effort into it to help the speaker along. Be the kind of audience member you hope to have in your audiences. And maybe audience karma will reward you when you’re the one up front.