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Hushing The Audience

 

Techniques Public speaking > Speaking Tips > Hushing The Audience

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Here's some ways of getting your audience to be quiet and pay attention, which is something all presenters need to achieve from time to time.

Stand still

Just stand still and relaxed. Gaze quietly around until everyone is silent, then begin. This may take some time, and may need courage, but it will work.

Use your arms

The signal for silence is to put your arms out wide in front, palms down and slowly move them down at the same speed as the quiet descends.

Ring a bell

Take a small bell and ring it when you need to start speaking. This is particularly helpful on such as training courses where you will be stopping for exercises.

An improvised alternative is to tap the side of a drinking glass with a pen. This is not as loud, but can still be effectively if the room is not too large.

Just say ssshhhh...

A neat trick is to quietly say 'shhh' so it comes out as a long 'shhhhhhhhh' sound. What often happens here is that other members of the audience joins you. This can be combined with using your arms.

Encourage ssshhhh...

A collaborative variation on the above is to say 'If you're ready to begin, just say sssshhhh'. In this way people who are listening will join you. others will also join in and hence amplify and spread the hushing.

Start talking

Just start your talk and hope that those who are talking will politely quieten down and pay attention.

Have you ever ridden a bike in a rainstorm? ...

Start with a loud, inconsequential comment

Start with a loud comment that does not directly ask for quiet but is clearly louder than the noise and is indirectly addressed at those who are talking.

RIGHT! Let's Get Going! ...

Ask for quiet

Ask in a general way for quiet without directly addressing the noisy people.

Ok, we're ready to begin. Can we have some quiet now please.

Speak directly

Speak directly to the people who are being noisy. This may be needed if they are ignoring other signals for quiet.

Excuse me -- yes, you -- could you be quiet now please so we can begin?

Ask what's up

Assume that people are talking about what you have said and perhaps have not understood something (or maybe cannot hear you well).

I can hear some discussion -- could you share? What's your concern?

Point out the problem

Make a pointed comment that identifies the problem being caused, for example that there are people who want to listen

There are people at the back who are talking and I can see that this is disturbing others. Can we have quiet so everyone can hear, please?

Use a put-down

Make a comment that belittles the speaker in some way, for example by the use of sarcasm or other biting wit. Do this only in extreme situations and when you really know what you are doing!

 Hey there! Do you want to come up here and do the talking? No, well shut up and listen, then.

Discussion

A noisy audience is a problem for many speakers and you will need to find a way that works for you. For some, a polite request is best. For others, a more direct command is needed, and a put-down may risk the anger of the entire audience. If in doubt, it is usually best to err on the side of caution and politeness.

When people are talking, you shouldn't continue unless the conversation is very brief or your talk will naturally cause discussion, such as when you are posing them problems.

Speaking assertively and with confidence is often important -- a nervous 'please be quiet' will not help your credibility. Do remember that most of the audience wants to hear you, and will appreciate you quieting those who are distracted by other matters.

You may need to quiet the audience in several places.

  • Initially, when you are starting to speak.
  • In the middle, where people start a conversation at an inappropriate time.
  • After breaks, when you want to restart.
  • After exercises or encouraged interaction.

If you will need to quiet the audience in several places, such as on a training course, your success at this in the first place will likely be repeated in subsequent places, so it may be important to get it right first time.

See also

Four audiences, Assertiveness

 

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