Standing ovations should not define the quality of speeches

Students may feel anxious about the quality of their speech by the audiences reaction.

Salah Abdulkarim

Students may feel anxious about the quality of their speech by the audience’s reaction.

Standing ovations are meant to show the audience’s enthusiasm, approval, or support. While showing support is important, the reactions of the audience shouldn’t be used to measure the quality of a senior speech.
Oftentimes students and faculty will show their support for particular speeches by standing up at the end of the speaker’s speech. Most often, however, the speeches that get the most recognition are the ones that explore heavier topics, often connected in a personal way, such as identity, eating disorders, or other traumatic events an individual may have experienced. While it’s important to have compassion for these speakers, we shouldn’t justify their hardships over others.
An unintended consequence of standing ovations suggests that some speeches are more important than others strictly because of their content. We have created a subconscious norm that a speech can only be considered exceptional if the content relates to intense experiences or feelings. Only if you have experienced something traumatic, and have decided to share it in front of the community, then your speech can receive an enthusiastic response. Not to say that those who choose to share their traumas shouldn’t be congratulated, but it is important to recognize that the audience’s reaction isn’t the only determinant of the quality or significance of one’s speech.
Standing ovations are already inaccurate measures of speech quality because of the audience’s tendency to ‘follow the leader’. Generally, it doesn’t take long for the whole auditorium to stand after the first few people do. It has become a social thing, oftentimes pressuring everyone to agree and simply stand up, because it is what everyone else is doing. In addition to that, it can be difficult for people in social settings to be the first ones to stand. So if someone really enjoyed or sympathized with a particular speech, they may not show it because of social institutions, and fear of standing out (ie: what if nobody else felt the same, what if I am the only one standing, what will my friends think, etc).
I challenge the community to consider why they might be standing up. Does it feel like an obligation because of the topic and the responses of those around you, or did you feel a genuine connection and sympathetic response to the story? I also challenge the community to stand up (or continue to stand up) but only when they truly feel compelled to do so.
As a speaker, or just in general, it is important to not solely base achievements on the responses or reactions of those around us. While standing ovations show support, the quality of a speech should not be dictated by whether or not the audience chooses to stand.