Recently, I saw a speaker start a presentation by saying, “Good evening!” When only a few of the two hundred people in the room responded with a feeble “Good evening,” he said loudly, “Come on – you can do better than that. Let’s try that again. GOOD EVENING!”
This time the audience responded with the obligatory “Good evening,” in the sing-song cadence of children in a schoolroom.
It felt like we were children being scolded. And it left me and many other audience members predisposed not to listen. (For the record, I was one of the few people who had responded the first time.) One audience member later confided in me that it felt like the speaker was berating us.
Scolding and berating the audience is not a good way to connect with people in the audience and get them to listen to you.
Yes, as a speaker, you may want the audience to respond to you, but you have to earn their respect and trust first. You have to build up to this kind of group “call and response” (especially as in this case, when it was an evening event where everyone was full of food and alcohol).
While you can start a presentation with “Good evening,” don’t worry if you don’t receive a response. An even better opening would be to jump right into your content with a startling statistic, a relevant story or even a simple statement of your overall message.
Under no circumstances should you start your presentation by scolding the audience for not being loudly and immediately responsive to you. If you do, you run a great risk that you will alienate people and cause them not to listen to your presentation.