If you gave a speech and half the audience was tuned out, does it mean your speech is bad? Or does it mean that you have a bad audience? Let’s assume for now that you have the perfect audience. Is it still possible that the audience will tune out? And how do you test? And what are the parameters you’ll need to get your testing right?
Let’s take two parameters to start with
1) Action Taken
2) Time of day
And let’s start with an example…
I gave six speeches on two consecutive days. Same speech. Same length of speech. Similar target audience (people who were advertising on radio). And I gave the speech at 9am, 1pm and 5pm. And then we checked for response. In my case, the response (action taken) was the level of laughter for specific points in the presentation. And consistently the best response was at 9am. Then it dipped like crazy at 1pm. And went up a bit at 5pm (but not as high as 9am).
So what does this prove?
Nothing and everything. You know instinctively that people are sleepier at lunch time and also tend to droop a lot. But how can it be that entire audiences (who wake up at different times of the day) have the same response?
Well they do.
And I tested it.
And so what would I do if I were to speak again? I’d insist on a 9 or 10 am slot. I wouldn’t speak at lunch time and I wouldn’t speak at 5pm. And yes, when I was starting up in my career I’d take any time slot, but now I’ll play prima donna and demand the morning slot—or I won’t speak. How does this make a difference? At events where we sell products, our conversion rate stems from 30% to 60% of the audience. If were to do the same speech at 1pm, I may go as low as 5%. At 5pm I may hit 20%.
Why? Because the more the audience laughs with you; the more they respond, the more they’re participating.
And a participatory audience is always more likely to convert. Conversion doesn’t always mean selling product or services. It could mean “giving their business cards” or it could be that they stand up and “wave their hands in the air”. Whatever it is you want them to do (the next action), one audience will respond better than the next one.
So if you want to get a response, you need to measure the action.
Get the audience to do something. Get them to take action? How many people take that action? And then change the action a bit. Is there a change in response? Change it again. Is there a change? Change the time of day. Is there a change?
You may automatically assume it’s the time of day that works against you. But that’s not true.
I’ve watched speakers do the “graveyard shift” (that’s right after lunch in speaker land) and get the audience to respond better than the speaker did in the morning or afternoon shift. I’ve seen speakers speak at the end of three rigorous days and get an enormous response from the audience. So your assumption isn’t always correct, because it does depend on your material as well. In my case, I need the audience to be super-alert because the information I’m giving is pretty full on.
The information is so unusual that it requires my audience to be on “full battery”. But your material may be difference and not quite as taxing. And hence may well be better suited for a different time slot.
The only way to test is to change the variables of “action taken” and “time of day”. Test, test and then test some more. And when you’ve tested enough, become a prima donna. And you’ll find your audience is completely tuned in every time you speak.