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24 Faces of a Presentation Audience

You see them when you look out from the stage. But who are they? And what are they thinking?

Here are 24 types of conference delegate. And what the delegate is actually thinking (in speech marks).

1. Student

Turns up late. Sits at the back. The only note-taker. Somehow, first to shake your hand when you get off the stage. “Fascinating talk. Can you tell me everything you know about…”

2. Newbie

First time at a conference. All alone. Big budget. “Is it normal to be shy when you don’t know anyone. Please someone, introduce yourself to me!”

3. AV guy

PowerPoint saviour. Most experienced presentation audience member. “Presentations all merge into one for me. You were great, by the way.”

4. Dude

Hangs out with the AV guy. Turns out to be scouting for keynote speakers. “Nobody expects me to pay attention.”

5. Lookalike

Your double. Gets all the credit for your presentation’s good bits. And all the networking. “Wow. How did I get all these hot leads?”

6. Anon

Shows up at all the conferences. Recognised by everyone. No-one remembers their name, though. Or what they do. “I wish I was famous.”

7. Expert

Seen it all before. Knows 10 times more than the presenter about the presentation topic. Hope they don’t wake up at question time. “Zzz.”

8. Journo

Sits next to the only other delegate they know: the expert. “I need that slide deck. Can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

9. Detractor

One of two who concentrate. Itching to disagree. “Aha. You quoted 10%. It’s actually 9.9%. Aren’t I clever?”

10. Prospect

Got to impress. “Please let this end.”

11. Sales executive

Begged their sales director for a ticket. Bagsied the seat beside a prospective customer. No show. “Why sit through the talks when you can farm the audience’s business cards on their way out.”

12. Faker

Those bulging eyes of forced concentration. Inexplicably gives great feedback scores. “Wonder what questions the presenter wants me to ask.”

13. Boss

Begged for the cash to sponsor the event to get the cherished, keynote slot. Regretting choice of speaker. “Is my boss glaring at me?”

14. Boss’s boss

Disappointed (more with themselves) for handing over the sponsorship cash that let this employee represent the firm. “We need a plan if we’re going to do this again.”

15. Supplier

Knows more about your strategy than you do. Would have happily footed the sponsorship bill, (if asked). “I hope this doesn’t look like I’m stalking.”

16. Foodie

First to arrive. Collects every giveaway and brochure. Completes the feedback form section on catering. “Loving the cupcake trend.”

17. Fan

Gets what you’re trying to say. Leads the applause. Asks thought-provoking questions. Rare. “It’s like you read my mind before I even thought it.”

18. Techy

Important and renowned in your industry. But completely unintelligible. “If only everyone else was a bright as me.”

19. Compère

Star of your profession. Great public speaker. But now confined to introducing speakers, and chairing events. “Is anyone listening to this?”

20. iPrayer

Are they frantically tweeting your big ideas on their smartphone? Or just surfing, emailing, messaging, and gaming? “Nobody will notice. If they do, they’ll think I’m tweeting.”

21. Girlfriend

OK. Maybe not your actual girlfriend. But you definitely hang out at the office. The one you rely on for constructive criticism. “This presentation sucks. It would be cruel to say, though.”

22. Competitor

Two-faced, low-quality, late, cheap, and rich. Somehow finds a seat between your best customer and favourite workmate, ready to pounce. “Why do you think I’m here?”

23. Client

You begged them to come, promising a ‘unique learning experience’. Knows everyone. “Does this guy even realise we’re switching suppliers next year?”

24. Ex-client

Always pleased to see you. Gives the most generous applause. Tells everyone they’re an ex-client of the presenter, and why. “Nice person. Shame about the slides. A bit like their product.”

Which ones have you seen, or been?

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