If People Yawn During My Presentation, Is It Me?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

Recently, I presented Bold Presentation Skills for Women in Business at a local business association meeting and someone asked me, “If I see people yawning and checking their watches in the audience while I’m giving a presentation, should I assume it’s me?”

Most of the time, it’s not all about you.  People may be yawning because they didn’t get enough sleep the night before or because the room temperature is too warm after lunch and they’re feeling sleepy. 

They could be checking their watches because they have something important to do after your presentation.  Or they saw someone else (even you) check their watch and they’re unconsciously mirroring the behavior (like yawning, watch-checking is contagious – try it sometime in a crowded room or elevator).

So, if you occasionally see your audience members yawn or check their watches, it’s probably not you.

However, if these types of audience behaviors happen frequently during your presentations, regardless of the time, topic or type of audience, then maybe it is you. 

Videotape yourself or get feedback from a trusted colleague to be sure.  And then, make some changes in how you present so you can be more engaging:

  • Make sure your content is relevant and interesting. 

  • Practice adding in audience interaction such as asking questions – not just rhetorical questions, but questions that you’d actually like some answers to. 

  • You can also have each person turn to the person next to them and talk for a few minutes about something related to your topic.  

  • Be aware of your non-verbals – be sure that you’re making eye contact with everyone and that you’re varying your voice to keep their attention.
(And thanks to the audience member for the great question!)

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com