If you’ve ever had the privilege to speak in front of people, then you know that sometimes an audience is engaged and sometimes they are disengaged.
And if you’re at all tuned into your audience and plugged into the scene in-situ, as it unfolds then you see what’s happening. This is a live performance and there is no script to a live performance. That’s one of the many reasons you don’t want to be shackled to a script. You have much more freedom with a skeleton framework of your talk, which has a built-in margin for “anything that arises during the talk.” It’s the margin of magic. It’s what allows you to do impromptu speaking and recalibrate your communication.
Let’s stop for a minute and talk about what a disengaged audience looks like.
Blank stares, quizzical expressions, blasé body language, noticeable yawns, attention on something other than you (i.e. their phones)… etc. Need I say more?
But what do you do about it?
You can’t just ignore it….right?
You’re going to need a pattern disrupt!
Any experienced public speaker would be the first to tell you that sometimes your audience will just disengage. It does happen. It can happen for a number of reasons some of which are beyond your control some of which are within your control.
A seasoned public speaker will be able to read the audience and re-calibrate their delivery, style, message. Remember we have our margin of magic, right? Where the impromptu happens and you deal with things that have gone awry (read: disengaged audience) as they come up.
An amateur public speaker will keep doing what they’re doing…even when all signs point to SOS!
But you’re in luck, Explearners. Here, I’m giving you 4 strategies to use when your audience is blasé …
These are easily implementable strategies you can use in a meeting, on stage, or a small group presentation.
You've got to shake things up when you see boredom on their faces.
Ask a question to the audience
- Try for something startling.
- And the question you ask should relate to your topic.
- It can be rhetorical
- Or you can actually field questions from the audience.
- Imagine ….What would you do then?
- What if I asked you [about]…
- Why is that ….
- You can call specific people out (this is great if you know the audience personally, so ideally this would be in a meeting setting)
- Jim and I were chatting the other day.
- Sandra, you shared an insightful comment with me earlier today. Could you please share that with the group?
Startle them with sound
- Vary your pitch (volume)
- Adjust your pace
- Make an interjection … [pause]
- This will break the monotony… and awaken the audience. This will be especially helpful for those who drone on and on (you know who you are)
Get them moving / do something
- Get them stand up shake around
- Have them get up and mingle (if this is a situation where the audience members do not know each other)
- Talk to the person next to them – something interactive (and try out the strategy you just shared / or to discuss the case study you presented)
This one really is only appropriate in a smaller group setting: small meeting, talk given to a few audience members (if it’s a TEDTalk or a talk of similar caliber, then just focus on points 1 & 2).
- Take a break – excuse yourself (you don’t have to explain yourself, excuse yourself)
- You’re human you have your off days
- That is totally ok. No one expects you to be on your game 24/7
- Even Superhumans like LeBron James, JLo, Tony Robbins, and Oprah have their off days
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a humbling experience that every communicator needs to go through.
You can only fix what’s in your control.
The next time you want to re-engage your audience use these strategies. Try them out in the real-world to make them your own, Explearners.
Happy Explearning 🐝