The Right Way to Thank the Audience

The Right Way to Thank the Audience

April 16, 2021

Have you ever gone to the symphony?

Think back to that experience as the orchestra played it’s final note. Every instrument and musician finishes with dramatic flair. It’s mesmerizing.

The silence hangs for a few moments and then the crowd erupts into applause.

The musicians rise to their feet and bow. They give signs of thanks. But again, it's well after the finishing moment.

Just like an orchestra, a speaker should not finish a talk by saying thank you to the audience. Instead they should finish with an impactful closing remark. The audience should be able to recognize that big moment as the finish.

Why is this so important?

A speaker’s role is to deliver value, entertain, and inspire. Humans are programmed to remember the first thing they hear and the most recent thing they hear. This is why a hook and dismount are critical to a successful talk.

Ending a talk with “thank you” does not achieve a powerful finish. It doesn’t inspire action.

But you see there are times to thank the audience. In fact one of them is after the big finish. Just like the violinist or the conductor who shows their appreciation after they finish the musical piece, so too should a speaker. A clear distinction exists between the talk and the thank you for paying attention and giving the time.

When I speak, I prefer to say thank you individually and will stay as long as that takes. If it’s on Zoom, I stick around and I provide my contact information. I was raised in the South. We believe in good manners. I thanked every single juror who ever heard me try a case. After 102 jury trials, that’s quite a few jurors I thanked. Many of them even voted against my side. If I won, I thanked them. If I lost, I thanked them. Every single time.

I’ve never given any talk where thank you didn’t come out of my mouth. But it also wasn’t the way I finished my talk.

There are other opportunities to thank the audience in different ways. This is the part many speakers miss.

The first way to thank the audience is to put in the preparation that a great talk requires. This means thinking about the audience and where they are at. What are they looking for?

Then figure out where you want to take them.

Too many speakers mail it in. They deliver the same talk over and over again. No changes. No focus on the specific audience.

Even if that speaker says thank you at the end of the talk, they didn’t really care for the audience because they didn’t deliver value.

I believe the primary way a speaker says thank you to the audience is to deliver a talk that brings value, entertainment, and inspiration. It takes time, effort, and energy from the speaker. The best speakers I know all deliver but it’s because of the level of preparation and professionalism they put into every single talk they give.

I’ve been very fortunate to meet some of the absolute best.

How else can a speaker thank the audience?

Do it early...just not first thing.

As I said earlier, humans are primed to remember the first thing they hear. So hook the audience. Then thank them for having you as a speaker. Totally fair and reasonable approach. One that I often do myself.

Do it late...just not last.

Build your talk into different sections. Think of your finish as it’s own complete dismount. Put the thank you before this section. It’s an easy way to thank the audience and then deliver a big finish for them. It reinforces your point that you value their time and attention.

These are the right ways to thank an audience.

Too many people fail to deliver a memorable talk and then say thank you at the finish of their speech. Those things are incongruent. If the speaker appreciates the audience, they put in the time to deliver for the crowd.

The best way to thank the audience is to deliver value, entertain, and inspire them in some way.

Plus say thank you at the right times.

It’s just not at the end of your talk. The end of your talk is for the memorable and powerful dismount.

Just like a gymnast. They stick the landing before they bow.

Want to discuss more?

I'm the founder of Performative Speaking, coach of the national mock trial team at SMU Law School, Trial Lawyer of 102 jury trials including murders and child abuse cases, and professional speaker.

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