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What if my audience hates me?

What to do if your audience hates you

One of the top fears public speakers have is that their audience won’t like them. Whilst it’s terrifying to think of yourself standing in front of a group of people who are mentally throwing daggers at you, there are tried and tested ways to get your audience on side.

It’s normal to worry about the audience’s perception of you and your material. After all empathy, one of Ginger’s Six Qualities of an Inspiring Speaker teaches us to not worry about ourselves but focus on how to customize our speech for the audience. And as presenters, we will be much more successful if we design our presentations to adapt to our audiences’ needs. It’s all about what THEY need.

But Sarah… you ask… what if my audience hates ME?

audience don't like public speaker

Four Ways to get your audience on your side

There are a number of things you can do to increase your ability to please an audience – through tools that are available on this website:

  1. Visualize success… This process is given in the confident public speaking eCourse “Battling the Nerves By Rewiring the Brain”. By developing confidence in yourself, you will become more likeable as a speaker.
  2. Tame your inner critic so you can change your internal dialogue away from worrying about the negative, towards supporting your confidence. Again, boosting your confidence will help you to impress.
  3. Freshness is a key quality of a speaker who engages a room. Develop freshness to avoid being BORING as a speaker
  4. Learn how to be persuasive (from our four-part blog series), so that you can turn a public speaking situation round to your advantage whilst also being authentic.

But Sarah… you ask againwhat if my audience really REALLY doesn’t like me? 

The truth is… some audience members won’t like you.

Some audience members, no matter how witty and engaging, how charming and persuasive, how dynamic and brilliant you are… will NOT like you. Matter of fact they might not like you because of all those things.

Do what you can to engage your audience and don’t worry about those who fail to be impressed. That’s their issue, not yours.

In an interview for my book, “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson), motivational speaker Nigel Risner told me:

“Get your audience on board with your first line and you’re sorted. I often start with the question, ‘How many people in this room would like to have at least five percent more success in some part of their life?’, which starts my talk off with a YES. Find an opening line that guarantees a YES answer from 90% of your audience and half the battle is won.

Remember that in most speaking situations, 95% of the audience want to love you, they’re on your side.  The remaining five percent don’t care how brilliant you are, they’ll never like you. In every audience I speak to, five percent want to marry me, five percent want to kill me – it’s bizarre. Acknowledge that this is all part of the game and focus on the 95 percent who like you.” 

Find something that’s more important than being liked

Confidence ‘no matter who likes me’ derives from finding something that’s more important to you than simply being liked. This is the mark of a truly powerful speaker and it derives from developing true authenticity in your speaking.

If you’re only public speaking for the ego trip of having an audience love you, you face the risk of being destroyed by a negative audience.  In this case you have no choice but to worry more or less constantly about what the audience is thinking of you.

If, however, you switch your focus to a message you deeply believe in, it’s no longer important who feels uncomfortable or negative towards you on the way. Once you find something you believe in – something that goes beyond your desire to be loved – you will become bolder and more fearless than you thought possible.

Here, your audience liking you becomes secondary.

Ironically, if you focus on sharing an authentic message that you believe in no matter what, you’ll find that your audience members  WILL connect with you. If you’re true to yourself you will attract the right people who can benefit for your message.

And those negative ones… well, they wouldn’t have liked you anyway.


About Sarah Lloyd-Hughes

Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a popular speaker on confidence and inspiration, an award winning social entrepreneur, founder of Ginger Training & Coaching and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).


  • Lucenda says:

    Dear Sarah,


    I want to ask you this question:
    I’m a jazz singer and already doing it for 8 years.

    Some audiences are great!!!!!

    But……sometimes the crowd can discourage me.

    You know…..that moment when I stand and sing my heart out and nobody claps.
    Oooooh I want to cry.

    It is that moment I can’t deal with when nobody claps after you pour your love, heart, voice , sweat and energy. But I have to say truly, that I experience that during dinners and meetings.

    I’m still struggling with that feeling. It feels like an emberrasment.

    What do you think about it? Please let me know Sarah.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Lucenda,
      Thank you for sharing such a tender topic with me. It can be so painful when we don’t get the reaction we want. A couple of tips:

      1) Figure out why you are singing. Is it for approval, or for the joy of expressing something important. Would you still love to sing, even if nobody listened? The more we can align to our own centre, our sense of purpose, the happier we will be.
      2) Just because they didn’t clap and cheer it doesn’t mean you didn’t touch us. You’re being super brave expressing your emotions, but we’re not all like that. Poker face. Sometimes the feeling just doesn’t show.
      3) It’s not personal. It feels personal to you, but I think we’ve all been in rooms / gigs where someone is playing and we just haven’t reacted – perhaps because we’re in the middle of a conversation, or because nobody else is clapping. It doesn’t mean we think badly of you – people are far to ego-centric for that!

      Keep signing your song and you’ll touch the people who are ready to be touched by you. Good luck :o)

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