Presenting To Zombies – A Survival Guide

They are known to strike paralysing fear into souls of speakers, throngs of zombie-like audience members staring blankly into space.

They look like humans, but there is no emotion, connection or engagement; all life appears to have been sucked out of the room.


There is nothing more bewildering and disconcerting than presenting to a sea of blank faces.  Understandably all sorts of questions race through your mind:

  • Why am I not connecting?
  • What am I doing wrong?
  • What’s up with them?
  • Have I spilt breakfast down my top?

Before we look at how you can kindle their interest and ramp up engagement levels, consider that it may be nothing to do with your presentation.  After all, you’ve delivered similar talks to diverse crowds up and down the country that were greeted with much enthusiasm and rapturous applause.  The undead masses in front of you could just be exhibiting their natural behaviour.  That could be just the way they are.

In some countries such as Japan, audiences tend to be a lot quieter than those in the UK and USA.  You could be Winston Churchill, and hardly receive anything back from the crowd.  Alternatively, the wall of silence might even be a sly tactic designed to test you and throw you off guard.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can deal with the different species of zombies and reanimate them back to life:

1. Throw the switch

Revive the living dead with a juicy jolt of electricity.  Not literally of course, but perk up your presentation with an upbeat delivery.  Sometimes an audience’s energy level mirrors that of the presenter.  Did you start off well, but flag half way through?  Drop in some humorous stories or even get audience members up on their feet doing some physical activity related to your presentation.  If you have been watching the crowd earlier, single out some of the more talkative members and direct pertinent questions at them.

2. Give them what they want

Zombies are suckers for bright lights and noises so incorporate video and slide presentations into your talk.

3. Adjust your pace

Zombies process information at a slower pace than us mortals, and some audiences just don’t say very much because they prefer to listen.  Their silence is not a sign of dissatisfaction or that they are preparing to storm the stage and devour you.  Adjust the pace of your presentation to meet them where they are, tone it down if needs be and then work on slowly increasing the engagement levels.  One of the simplest ways of doing this is by asking some simple questions.

If that doesn’t work, note what the audience members are doing.  If they’re doodling, looking at their watches or excavating detritus from their fingernails, then they are probably bored.  But if they’re all facing forward with eyes open wide, be content that they are at least taking in every word you are saying.

4. Animate

Sometimes zombification can happen during a speech.  The audience was initially highly response but fell silent after a particular element.  This is common with sensitive issues and difficult concepts.  You can prevent the energy drain by leading gently up to the topic so that it doesn’t come as such a shock.  Alternatively, reverse the drain by following the topic with something that you know will get the audience excited.

5. Be unpredictable

Zombies stick to routine, but you can engage them with a few surprises.  Throw your audience some curve balls from time to time.

Avoiding Zombie Apocalypse

A room full of zombies doesn’t have to mean zombie apocalypse.  You can survive without garlic and wooden stakes by learning to read your audience and adjusting your presentation accordingly. Contact us today to find out more, or check out some of our free resources, such as our whitepaper on The Winning Pitch – 10 Reasons Why Clients Say ‘YES!’

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