People say that they have the skill to read an audience. They can adapt to the room and adjust themselves and their messages accordingly. What if the audience is bored, tired, skeptical or distracted? Accommodating does not help you. In fact this mindset of relinquishing control of an audience can put a speaker at an immediate disadvantage. If you are in front of an audience then you are responsible for their entire experience.
I was running a workshop for 500 people in Las Vegas. The time slot was 1-5pm. The audience dragged themselves into the room after a big buffet lunch in a food coma. In they shuffled to the big conference room, with the fluorescent lighting. I could almost hear the groans as they sat down to “sit through” another presentation as thoughts of that nights entertainment filled their minds. If I had read the audience as low energy and modified my behaviors accordingly then it would have been one room napping within a few minutes. Instead I used behaviors to engage, motivate and energize. Key behaviors to pushing out energy are purposeful movement, gestures and vocal variety. Using those to invigorate the audience was key to waking everyone up and galvanizing them to stay involved.
If you “read the audience” and accommodate, then you put them in charge of their experience. If you inspire with your energy, and storytelling then you become the influencer.
Keep in mind that any audience is a compilation of people. They are human beings with emotions, attention spans, biases and empathy. We often lump them into a group and forget that we, the speaker, are responsible for their experience. We need to entertain, engage, educate and make it compelling to be remembered.