There are actually two different points in this blog that relate to each other.
The first is responding to the mood of your audience before you begin a presentation. In a recent blog I talked about the importance of arriving to the presentation site early and mingling with the audience as they arrive. This is important because during that time you should be getting a feel for the mood of the audience and planning how to adapt your presentation to that mood. If they’re in a light mood, you can respond with humorous banter. If they’re in an inquisitive mood, you can give them some unusually interesting information or question that provokes thought. If they’re in a hostile mood, your introduction must be longer than usual as you will need to have your audience in a receptive mood before you can proceed.
The second piece of advice is one that I always repeat and stick to, during your presentation you must adapt to listener feedback. People give off body language during the course of your presentation and from that you can deduct what is going on. Does the audience look confused, board, irritated? Using the body language and the general feel of the audience you can make subtle changes to your presentation. If the audience looks confused then break down the information even more, if the audience looks board, then add humor to make them interested again and change gears to make them want to be involved. Another option for a board audience is to challenge them, get them thinking, or give them more information to break the boredom. If the audience is irritated, then it is probably something that they disagree with, so lighten the mood with understanding the other possible side of the story. Think about what your audience is telling you during your next presentation and what subtle changes can you easily make to better help them. After all, your audience did give up their time to come see you and they do have some expectations as what they want to gain.