Seated Ovations: How to Measure Your Presentation’s Success
Who doesn’t like to receive a standing ovation? It’s the ultimate conclusion to a terrific presentation. It is validation. It is (for those who choose) bragging rights.
What exactly does a standing ovation prove?
Sometimes a standing ovation is given out of respect. Sometimes it is started by a CEO who liked your program, and the rest of the audience followed his or her example. Sometimes it is accidentally caused by someone who leapt up at the conclusion of the presentation to go to the restroom. And, sometimes it signifies a spectacular and moving presentation. A standing ovation can be any of those things.
What about seated ovation. Does it mean the speaker fell short? That they could have done better? That they weren’t as good as the speaker before that received one? I was fortunate to spend a day with Ron Arden, an accomplished and wise coach of speakers who had a rich background in theater. He was a skeptic and a bit of a curmudgeon. And, he got paid handsomely for one reason: he was very, very good at what he did.
Ron and I discussed the standing ovation. Here’s what he had to say:
“You want a standing ovation? I can teach you how to get one every time. It won’t mean much but it might make you feel better. To me, a standing ovation isn’t the ultimate proof of a good presentation. Think about it this way: truly impacted audience members often aren’t in the state of mind to leap to their feet at the end of the speech. They may be deeply moved and still thinking about what they just experienced.”
Sure, clients like to see a standing ovation. It makes them feel good that they hired a speaker who got such seemingly high approval from the audience. But, the relative importance of the standing ovation depends on your objective. Positively affecting an audience may or may not cause them to rise in unison. Getting them to think and feel deeply may actually cause them to stay seated, in profound thought and emotion.
And, a seated ovation might be proof that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.