Accept Applause but Don’t Expect It

Seth Godin is the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. They are bestsellers. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it. This post is part of a series based on original posts by Seth.

In this blog post from 25 April 2012, Seth lays down a simple rule that every public speaker should take to heart: Don’t expect applause.

But wait a minute, isn’t the applause at the end part of the thrill of public speaking? Isn’t it a key part of the experience?

I enjoy applause as much as any speaker. The louder, the better, I say! But here’s the point: If you approach your speech or presentation expecting applause and focused on the rewards (applause, recognition, money, an invitation back, etc.) you are doing your audience and yourself a disservice.

Focus on delivering the best speech or presentation you can; focus on making the experience worthwhile for the audience; focus on your message and why they should care.

The applause is beyond your control. Leave that decision to the audience.


Don’t Expect Applause

by Seth Godin

Accept applause, sure, please do.

But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short. That’s because your work is depending on something out of your control. You have given away part of your art. If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it’s no longer your work–the dependence on approval has corrupted it, turned it into a process where you are striving for ever more approval.

Who decides if your work is good? When you are at your best, you do. If the work doesn’t deliver on its purpose, if the pot you made leaks or the hammer your forged breaks, then you should learn to make a better one. But we don’t blame the nail for breaking the hammer or the water for leaking from the pot. They are part of the system, just as the market embracing your product is part of marketing.

“Here, here it is, it’s finished.”

If it’s finished, the applause, the thanks, the gratitude are something else. Something extra and not part of what you created. To play a beautiful song for two people or a thousand is the same song, and the amount of thanks you receive isn’t part of that song.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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5 Responses to Accept Applause but Don’t Expect It

  1. Public speaking is an art which can be learnt with the passage of time. It’s true that when u are expecting applause it’ll make u uneasy which may affect your speaking skill. Stephanie thanks for telling your experience. Best of luck to you for the future ….

  2. I am new to Toastmasters and I live it. Sometimes I leave broken, but never any less hopeful. Recently, my job as Toastmaster has been unsuccessful with the audience, despite my research or creativity. I think my delivery is not hitting the target, they are not the easiest speeches, snippets to listen to as I love to speak about the Lord. Your “accept but not expect” has helped me tremendously. I will continue to work dilligently on my message and delivery while considering my audience but not depending on their praise.


  3. Pingback: Accept Applause but Don’t Expect It | Growing as a Professional Speaker |

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