Sometimes, The Audience Says “No” To A Program

Posted by Dave

I was once introduced by a Program Chairperson/Drill Sergeant, who admonished the crowd with these words: “Turn off your cell phones, turn your chairs around this away, and be quiet! I want to hear what our speaker has to say, and I don’t want any chatter from you interfering with my concentration.”

It was both gratifying and slightly embarassing at the same time. Fortunately, everyone in the crowd knew and adored the lady/Drill Sergeant, so they cheerfully did as she ordered.

At one job this weekend, I would have given anything to have had her introduce me again. The crowd, 300+ lady conventioneers, were having a final brunch together before heading back to their homes. They had already sat quietly for a series of speakers throughout the previous 2 days, and had only just returned from a church service. A significant portion of them (roughly half) were far more interested in chatting with one another, than in listening to yet another speaker. So, chat away is exactly what they did.

Some crowds take a while to settle down. But usually – if I persevere – within a few minutes, they will cease and desist, then listen to the program. On those occasions when one or two die-hard talkers don’t get the message, the other guests will often “shhh” them.

That didn’t happen today. In fact, the general level of noise in the room only grew as I continued. That’s when it dawned on me that a 35 to 45-minute program might not have been the best idea for this particular audience. Nice background music, to which anyone could choose to listen – or not – would probably have been better.

If you find yourself in the position of today’s Event Chairman, planning a dinner and deciding what – if any – entertainment to offer, here are a few suggestions:

1. First, give serious thought to whether this is a situation where your guests will want to sit back and be entertained, or whether they would prefer to engage one another in conversation.

2. If you do decide on a program, be aware that your speaker/entertainer expects and deserves a basic level of courtesy from the audience. Jokes whose punchlines can’t be heard aren’t funny. Song lyrics and meaningful information which are muffled by crowd noise are lost.

3. Finally, it is rude – both to the speaker and to those in the audience who are actually trying to listen – to have ongoing chatter in the room. It is no different than if someone sat down in front of you in a movie theater, then yakked all through the feature.

How do you prevent such occurrences? Well, you might try simply imparting your expectations to the crowd with an introduction like this: “And now it’s time for the moment we’ve been waiting for – our Program. I’ve told our speaker that we have the most attentive and courteous audience he will ever see. I know you won’t let me down.”

If that doesn’t work for you, I can give you the number of a lady Drill Sergeant.


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