The Partisan Audience: Planting Friends in the Audience of a Speech [Poll]


Public speaking is an activity that inspires anxiousness and fear in a large percentage of the population. One of the most common pieces of advice for combatting this (advice that we ourselves have shelled out) is to plant friends in the audience, to help ease your anxiety. However, we’re not entirely convinced that this is always the best course of action.

You Should Plant Friends In The Audience

I think the reasons why you should are almost self explanatory.

  • A friendly face can make the world of difference if you’re panicking. It means that there is someone in the audience who you can focus on, when the nerves become overwhelming. They can nod encouragingly and smile, putting you at ease.
  • If you make quips or jokes, they can laugh on queue. An audience doesn’t just respond to you, they respond to the people around them; as Lucy Kellaway pointed out, if one person in an audience laughs, the rest will often follow.
  • After the speech, they can assist with networking. The more people you know at an event, the easier it is to network, as they can connect you with the people they have met, and vice versa. Having a friend in your audience will make it easier to meet your attendees.


You Shouldn’t Plant Friends In The Audience

Though it can be a nice comfort blanket, planting friends in the audience isn’t always the way forward.

  • If things don’t go to plan, it will become very evident that only one person is laughing, clapping or responding every time you speak. This can kill your self-confidence, exacerbate the panic, and make your paying audience even less receptive.
  • Some conferences will provide you with an extra ticket, but others may not. Planting friends in a larger audience can be a costly venture; if a conference costs upwards of £100, and it’s not in a field your friend is interested in, it may be a waste of money.
  • Public speaking is often seen as one of the most terrifying things a person can do, mostly due to a fear of embarrassment. For some people, having a friend to look at will make the speech easier, but for others, it means someone they actually know will be witness to their discomfort.

Finally, there is a certain pride that comes with standing on your own two feet. If your audience doesn’t contain friends, you’re more likely to look around the entire room, and connect with the strangers who have paid to see you perform.

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Photo Credit: Purmina Koli via Wikimedia Commons