20 Ways to Quiet an Audience

A noisy audience is a problem for many presenters. Just remember that most of the audience wants to hear you, and will appreciate you quieting those who are distracted by other matters.

Here are 20 suggestions to get your audience to be quiet and pay attention, which is something all presenters need to achieve from time to time.


1.- Use lighting to your advantage.

It is best to have the room well lit prior to the performance and the stage not really lit at all. Then just before the program is to begin, you dip the lights two or three times. This gets almost everyone’s attention and they will quiet down.  Secondly, leave the house lights dim and bring up the lights on the stage. Now you have the focus of the room on the stage, so folks are going to be essentially looking that way now.

2.- Stand still.

Just stand still and relaxed. Gaze quietly around until everyone is silent, then begin. This may take some time, and may need courage, but it will work.

3.- Use your arms.

The signal for silence is to put your arms out wide in front, palms down and slowly move them down at the same speed as the quiet descends.

4.- Ring a bell.

Take a small bell and ring it when you need to start speaking. This is particularly helpful for events such as training courses where you will be stopping for exercises. An improvised alternative is to tap the side of a drinking glass with a pen. This is not as loud, but can still be effective if the room is not too large.

5.- Just say ssshhhh…

A neat trick is to quietly say ‘shhh’ so it comes out as a long ‘shhhhhhhhh’ sound. What   often happens here is that other members of the audience joins you. This can be combined with using your arms.

6.- Encourage ssshhhh…

A collaborative variation on the above is to say ‘If you’re ready to begin, just say sssshhhh’. In this way, people who are listening will join you. Others will also join in and hence amplify and spread the hushing.

7.- Start talking.

Start with a loud comment that does not directly ask for quiet but is clearly louder than the noise and is indirectly addressed at those who are talking. “ ALL RIGHT! Let’s Get Going! ..”.

8.-  Ask for quiet.

Ask in a general way for quiet without directly addressing the noisy people. “Ok, we’re ready to begin. Can we have some quiet now please?”

9.- Speak directly.

Speak directly to the people who are being noisy. This may be needed if they are ignoring other signals for quiet.  “Excuse me — yes, you — could you be quiet now please so we can begin?”

10.- Ask “What’s up?”

Assume that people are talking about what you have said and perhaps have not understood something (or maybe cannot hear you well).  “I can hear some discussion — could you share? What’s your concern?”

11.- Point out the problem.

Make a pointed comment that identifies the problem being caused.  For example,  there are people who want to listen.  “There are people at the back who are talking and I can see that this is disturbing others. Can we have quiet so everyone can hear, please?”

12.– Start and hope for the best.

Just start your talk and hope that those who are talking will politely quiet down and pay attention. “Have you ever ridden a bike in a rainstorm? …”

13.- Start with a loud, inconsequential comment.

Use of sarcasm or other biting wit. Do this only in extreme situations and when you really know what you are doing!  “Hey there! Do you want to come up here and do the talking? No?  Well be quiet and listen, then.”

14.- Select a popular song that most people in your audience are likely to know and play  it loudly.

For instance, play Pharell’s “Because I’m Happy” the moment the ballroom doors open. Loop the song to play two or three times. The premise is to have everyone coming in the door start singing and dancing to the song. This gets everyone’s attention on the same thing (rather than hundreds of individual conversations).  Once the song stops it will be fairly easy to shift the attention to the Master of Ceremonies.

15.-  Plan an invocation at the beginning of your event.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly people quiet down when they realize that someone is about to say a prayer.

16.- Ask everyone who IS listening to you to start a steady, synchronized clap.

Keep it going for 30 seconds to a minute. Slowly, the chatterboxes will realize that some thing is happening and they’ll quiet down.

17.- Start a guided-response chant with everyone who IS listening.

“When I say UCONN, you say Huskies.  UCONN….Huskies!… UCONN! … Huskies! and
continue until you have the attention of the room.

18.- Ask everyone who IS listening to gently tap their knives against their glasses.

If you get enough people tapping the glass, it definitely grabs the attention of their chattering neighbors.

19. – Look directly at people who are talking during your presentation.

If they continue to talk, then stop talking until they notice.  If this doesn’t work, ask them if you are too loud for them or if you are interrupting them. The audience will laugh and the offenders will quiet down.

20.- It is also imperative that the act you are about to introduce be entirely ready.

That means tuned up, plugged in, if you can swing it, and warmed up. You’ll lose everything you created if the act you introduces takes ten minutes to get started.

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