“I’d love to know: what do you when you have a totally silent audience? It can feel like pulling teeth when you’re trying to get an audience to ask questions/respond/react at all but instead they sit there quietly. Help!”

Getting a silent audience talking is very important for your mindset. Your confidence. In other words, you need this for you as much as for them. It’s not until an audience-member participates that my brain’s fear-center relaxes and I think, “Ok, this is going to go fine. Today won’t be my last presentation ever.” ☺

So to give a great presentation to a quiet audience, you need to bear in mind a few possible reasons why they are quiet…

Because they don’t know each other!
SOLUTION: Rooms of new attendees who don’t know each other are notoriously shy. This one is not entirely in your control, but in this situation you could have a go-to icebreaker game, or a funny video clip, or tell a relatable detail about yourself that relaxes the room.

Because your questions are too hard to answer.
SOLUTION: Ask easy to answer questions (yes or no, answers they can answer by raising their hand “How many of you…?”

Because they are actually really interested in what you’re saying.
SOLUTION: Silence is not automatically a bad sign. If you can’t read them, trying telling yourself you are doing really well until you get clear evidence that this isn’t the case! ☺ If they are laughing, they think you’re funny. If they are silent, they think you’re interesting. In my experience, we often do better than we think we’re doing. So it’s okay to decide – this is going great until I hear otherwise.

Because they don’t feel safe opening up to you.
SOLUTION: Model vulnerability. Tell a humanizing story. Laugh at a mistake you made. Share what an embarrassing or humbling moment in your life that is close to the timeline of your audience.

Because you’re not giving them enough time to process.
SOLUTION: Silence is your friend. Pause at the end of a funny line or funny story, so they know that was a joke. Ask a question and then count to 5 in your head before moving on, so they have time to formulate a question.

Because your subject scares them.
SOLUTION: Address the emotional state that your topic may induce. Convey both through your words and through a lot of smiling and open body language “Things are going to be okay. I have the answers you need to get from where you are now to where you want to go.”


Tips to Create Interaction


Asking Easy Questions gets your audience engaging with you.

  • Pay attention to questions that are easy to answer. Yes. No. Hand raise. Head-nod. Agree. Disagree.
  • Holding silence after you ask gives them time to formulate an answer and respond.
  • Coax them into responding by first asking “How many of you relate to this?” and then asking those who raised their hands “Anyone willing to share what came to mind?”

Stage Listening is a way to capitalize on your audience’s responses by listening in a way that shows you really care and you are really present in this moment with them.

  • Smile while they are talking.
  • Repeat the question for the audience so everyone hears.
  • Be supportive: “What a great question!” “Thanks so much for sharing.”
  • If you have to choose, focus on winning over the person rather than winning the point you are debating.

Identifying Touchstones allow you to connect your advice to what motivates them.

  • Ask your audience “What do you want?” “How can {this topic} improve your life / help you reach your goals?”
  • Pay attention to their answers and make sure to use them as examples in your presentations.

What do you think is in the way of you becoming the best presenter or speaker you can be? Let me know here.