Audience etiquette 

How to be a well-mannered audience member

The key to audience etiquette is to know what is considered good manners for the type of performance you are attending. What is appropriate in one context doesn't always readily translate to another.

Audiece etiquette -perfect behavior

If you go the theater to watch a play, talking through it will upset members of the audience around you and perhaps even the cast on stage. The same applies to a musical presentation in a concert hall.

However if you go to a large outdoor political rally or rock concert you'll be free to comment to your heart's content.

So what is standard audience etiquette for listening to speakers?

  • Arrive early. The starting time is generally the signal for the speaker to begin, not for you to be finding your seat.
  • Turn all electronic gadgetry off.
    Or if you must have your mobile on, set it to vibrate and make sure you're seated on the end of a row near an exit.
  • Talk only if you're invited to.
    Sometimes a speaker will ask for comments or questions. Phrase your questions or responses respectfully and sincerely. Interjections to challenge a speaker may be appropriate in some settings and absolutely not in others. Judge it carefully.
  • If you need cough drops or tissues have them ready rather than having to rummage through your bag for them.
  • Remember the sound of someone chewing gum, eating or slurping on a water bottle can be disruptive to others. You may not think you're being distracting but if those around you experience your behavior as such, you are. Consideration is the key.
  • Keep private whispered conversations to a minimum.
  • If you're a habitual rattler of programs, keys or coins put them out of your own way to avoid temptation.
  • Remaining alert and actively listening.
    Slouching, yawning and falling asleep does little for the speaker's confidence and the people around you will hate it if you snore!
  • Stay to the end of the speech or wait for a break before leaving. Exiting noisily or squeezing past other people trying to watch and listen is rude.
  • Show appreciation for the effort the speaker has made to plan, write and deliver the speech. If he makes you laugh, laugh. Clap when it's appropriate. A speaker needs your response. Your laughter, eye contact, and clapping all let him know he's doing a good job.

    However if you feel he's not performing well, it is not considered good manners to make that public knowledge. Audience etiquette follows the "do unto others as you would have done unto you" rule.

Like you I can remember many examples of thoughtless behavior.

There was an older woman and her friend sharing a bag of peppermints through a violin concerto. They unwrapped them in loud slow motion oblivious to the glares from those near by.

Yet another occurred at a play. A cell phone rang. It was answered and a conversation began. The lead actress stopped the play, left the stage, and reappeared in the aisle scanning the audience. Having found her man, she escorted him and his phone, amid cheers and clapping, to the exit.

Good audience etiquette let's everyone do what they came to do, listen to the speaker or music, or watch the play.

If you sincerely don't know what's expected for a particular type of public performance, ask someone who's got the experience to tell you. While you're at the event carefully observe the behavior around you. Take the best as a model for your own conduct.

"All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer."
                       Robert Louis Stevenson: 1850-1895