Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What to do when nobody's listening

The allure of broadcasting to the world is the audience. The response. Speakers don't speak to talk to themselves on stage. Changing the lives of the audience drives the communication. Bloggers write in the hopes that someone will read what they have written and take it to heart. Authors can only get their message out when someone buys (and reads) the book. Even the voice of the most boisterous politician sounds quieter after a losing vote.

But what if you have a message to get out? What if your book sits unpurchased, on shelves? What if you stand in front of empty halls with no one to speak to? What can you do to make sure your message outlives you?


Not having anyone to listen to you may concern you, but when did you last listen to your audience? Ask them for feedback. Try to understand what their concerns and needs are.

If your audience doesn't listen to you, you may be out of touch with them. Having something to say does not mean that someone necessarily has to listen. I'll be honest, I find this to be a difficult lesson, because when I'm talking (or writing), I feel like I have some awesome ideas to pump out there. But if you want to engage, you have to understand your audience.

What are their needs?

Reformulate Your Message

Does your message resonate with the audience anymore? Maybe you need to refactor it. Take some time and incorporate the feedback you learned from listening. 

Look for new angles on your existing content and message. Review your existing content or speeches and look for weaknesses and omissions. What content could you produce that would augment and improve what you already have?

You might even consider creating a totally new approach that pivots from your existing course of action. What new perspective could you provide that gives additional insight to your potential audience? Does it align with what feedback they told you that they needed?

Try To Reach One Person

Sometimes content producers try to come up with something valuable to everyone (I certainly do at times), and lose sight of the real audience. 

Try this instead: focus your content on a single person. If you have to reach out to them individually via email or talk to someone before a speech that you know will be in the audience, do it. Ask for feedback, work on what would engage that one person. 

If you are so lucky as to have more than one true fan, try to engage them, or engage them in bunches. Once you have started building a group that listens, make sure you continue to engage with them as you build larger and larger audiences.

Stay The Course

I have heard of people speaking to near-empty conference halls, marching forward as if it were filled to the brim. I'm not sure that's the type of staying the course that is valuable. However, using that opportunity to pull the few people that did show up to attend into a smaller, more personal and interactive discussion as opposed to unidirectional speech would add value and truly engage that smaller audience.

But you cannot let yourself get discouraged. If your message has merit, and you can verify that with test audiences or small groups, then producing content with that message creates value to people. Those people are your audience. You just need to keep producing and try to find them.


Talking (or writing) to no one can be discouraging, especially if you believe in the message that you want to get out to the world. But you need to make sure that message has someone interested in listening. Sometimes, that means you need to take some time to listen to your audience and understand their needs, reformulate or refactor some of the work that you are doing to make sure it aligns to those needs. From there, it's an effort to truly focus on engaging your customers or potential customers and then stay the course to keep creating meaningful and useful content.