How to read the room as a speaker

“If you want to become a more effective public speaker, you have to learn how to read the room.”

That’s advice you’re going to find in nearly every public speaking manual, course, etc. Read the room. Read the crowd. Gauge the audience. Watch the body language.

Except… no one actually tells you in usable detail HOW to do this. Read the room becomes a useless platitude, a cliche that’s not actionable. So here’s my template, my recipe for reading the room. Yours probably will vary once you develop it, and I’d love any fellow speakers to contribute their tips as well.

First, look at the room environment itself. What time of day is your talk? Right after lunch is food coma slot. 2-3 PM is siesta slot. Last session of the day means you’re all that stands between the crowd and the bar. Adapt your talk accordingly. If you’ve got a naturally low energy period of the day, you’re going to need to turn up the energy knob.

Lighting should ideally be bright. If it’s dim, people will natually fade out on you. Make the lighting as bright as possible without compromising your visuals.

Temperature should ideally be cool to cold. 68-70F is great. 70-72 is okay. Above 72 and people can get warm, and that means natural drowsiness. Above 75 and you’re hosed.

Next, look at the crowd. Divide the room up into front, middle, and back, left side and right side. Pick one row or table in each of the 6 areas, and look at those people.


Are they energized? Eager? Bored? The back row is typically the first to be disengaged, so that’s not necessarily a warning sign. If the middle row appears disengaged, start to worry. If the front row has checked out, again, you’re hosed.

Before your talk, walk around. Talk to a few people here and there, but at a business conference especially, look at what’s up on people’s screens. If it’s email, they’re not paying attention, and chances are they will only be paying partial attention during your entire talk. If it’s online shoppping, they’re really not there. You might have to resort to the dreaded “Please close your laptops” tidbit. If it’s Facebook, Twitter, or another social network, or a Word document blank, then they are paying attention, at least partially.

Pay attention to typing cadence and device cadence – how fast people are typing on their devices, and when. if it’s in sync with your key points, then you’ve got an engaged crowd. If it’s out of sync, if your sample rows are furiously typing when you haven’t said anything critical in a little while, then they’ve checked out.

Finally, turn on Twitter notifications of mentions on your phone, then set your phone to vibrate. Twitter is the new applause. With your phone in your pocket, you should feel more vibration if people are tweeting about you and your session. Don’t use the conference hashtag – specifically use your username, and make sure to highlight your Twitter handle early and often in the talk, even to the point of putting it (in a small way) on every slide.

These tips should help you read rooms better as a speaker for any engagement where the room is larger than just a handful of folks.

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What Apple Watch and Apple Pay mean for marketers

As many others did, I observed with great interest the Apple keynote special event on 9/9 in which the new Apple Watch and Apple Pay were revealed. Both are nice consumer technologies; both will have plentiful opportunities for B2B and B2C marketers, but the underlying technology of both will have a more profound effect.


Let’s talk about Apple Watch first. Based on how it was demo’ed and what things it should theoretically be able to do, Apple Watch’s NFC and Bluetooth LE capabilities will mean Tap to X functionality across a wide variety of media. If you’ve ever used a Disney Magic Band while at Disney World, Apple brings that capability to the rest of the world. Expect companies like LinkedIn to take advantage of it for sharing contact information at a conference. In fact, woe to the conference or event planner that doesn’t offer that capability in its conference app.

Speaking of which, the Tap to X capability should certainly make conferences and events more interesting. Frankly, I’d love to see conference apps with session management that send the notifications to the watch.

The second thing is Apple Pay. NFC readers are nothing new; in fact, you probably see them every day and gloss over them because you don’t have the dedicated hardware necessary to use them. Gas stations have loyalty programs like Mobil Speedpay, which has an additional key fob. Disney World has them with Magic Bands, but again, those require separate hardware. By putting Apple Pay front and center and getting merchants and banks on board, NFC payments might become much more mainstream. Since it’s already a standard, this means that Android users will benefit as well.

Touch to pay via Apple Pay will change the SMB landscape, probably more than the general retail space, if consumers adopt it. The use of Secure ID with the fingerprint scanner may help provide some additional reassurance, but Apple will have to battle security perceptions (celebrity photo crime as the most recent example) to reassure customers that it’s actually secure, even if the two systems – iCloud and Secure ID – are not technologically related to each other.

Touch to pay systems could have one profound improvement for marketers. Depending on what is supported in transaction systems on the back end, it could mean much better real-world conversion tracking for digital campaigns. Merchants will receive the same data they do today, but because the device being used to make a payment is digital, there will be more opportunities to track a real-world clickstream from digital promotion to brick and mortar store to digital purchase.

What should you be doing about these things? As with any new technology, particularly ones that will be adopted by Apple customers (who are a fairly large herd), there will be lots of opportunities for “firsts” that can generate attention. Be on board with those, obviously – first X to deploy Apple Pay in an app, first X to have an Apple Watch app in your vertical. In the bigger picture, be looking at the many different ways you can incorporate NFC and Bluetooth LE technologies into your marketing and business processes. There’s a horde of new users headed into that space, and any invention you can come up with will be to your benefit.

Finally, get seriously good at understanding mobile app analytics and mobile web analytics. Apple Pay might open up a new frontier in our ability to understand purchase behavior and conversion tracking from online to offline. This is going to be a huge opportunity for the smart marketing technologists to provide immediate value to their companies. If you haven’t already started skilling up on mobile analytics, bump it up on your priority list of things to do ASAP.

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Validating your marketing audience

One of our toughest challenges in marketing is new people – specifically, how to find the right new people to keep our businesses growing. Without new audiences, without new growth at the top of the funnel, our businesses will tread water at best, if not decline. In the bad old days of marketing, we had to take out massive numbers of advertisements to very broad audiences in the hopes of catching the attention of a tiny piece of a part of the audience that we actually wanted to do business with. We had no idea who our audiences were, and certainly no way to tell who they should be.

Today, things are a little better. Thanks to the abundance of data from social media and digital marketing analytics tools, we can gain an understanding of who our audience is, and who it should be. Let’s look now at how to determine whether our company’s audience is aligned with the broader audience we could have.

We’ll start with the characteristics of your existing audience. For this, we’ll use Google Analytics. If you don’t have demographics turned on, now would be the time to do that. (if you don’t know how, I’m available for hire through my employer ;) )

We’ll use my website data as the example. Here’s the broad demographics of my audience.


What we see here is a sweet spot of sorts, ages 25-54 where the bulk of my visitors are coming from. That’s one thing to note. There’s a gender imbalance, about 3:2 in favor of males. Is this good? Is this bad? I don’t know yet. Let’s keep digging.

I can also look at their interests:


Finally, I can go search – assuming my Google Analytics is tied to my Webmaster Tools account – to see how people are finding my website.


So now I’ve got a reasonably good starting place to understand my audience. From here we’ll flip over to Facebook Audience Insights, part of the Facebook advertising suite. If I plug in some of the basic characteristics of my audience, like age and topic (marketing), I can see what that audience looks like.


There’s an immediate and painful disparity: Facebook shows me that the gender balance for marketing folks is 2:1 female. My audience is a mismatch to the broad population. Now suppose I want to reach executives in digital marketing. I’d restrict the annual income to over $100K household income:


Now I’ve got a sense of what my audience should look like versus the reality of what it is today.

At this point it’s safe to draw a conclusion: my audience could and should look a little different than it currently does. Since I just built this exact audience on Facebook using their Audience Insights tool, I could simply hit the advertising button and start showing ads to them immediately. I could also do some research to find out where else this audience spends time online and look at those outlets for either advertising or contributed content opportunities.

So to paraphrase the popular credit card slogan: what’s in your audience? Go find out and then see if it’s in alignment with reality.

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