The art of reading your audience is one that every presenter must learn to master. This simple skill can help you move from good to great in regards to your overall presentation skills, because it allows you to respond to immediate feedback in the moment. On the flip side a presenter who can’t read their audience can become handicapped by the lack of feedback, leaving them to only make corrections after the presentation is complete.
The first step in becoming an expert in reading your audience starts by understanding 3 simple cues that give you insight into what your audience is thinking and feeling about your presentation.
Watch their posture.
Albert Merhabian a psychologist at UCLA has proven that 55% of communication comes from the posture of a person’s body. Which is why body posture is a vital cue when it comes to reading your audience. As you are presenting always be scanning the room asking yourself what does the posture of my audience say about their engagement. Are their arms crossed, signaling disagreement and resistance to your ideas? Or is their posture relaxed and leaning forward, signaling a desire to learn and hear more of what you have to say. Posture accounts for 55% percent of communication, don’t make the mistake as a presenter of not acknowledging it.
Watch their eyes.
They say that eyes are the window to the soul when it comes to presenting the same is true. I have had the privilege of presenting to thousands of students each year and I have seen first-hand how telling an audience members eyes are. All it takes is 20 minutes in front of a room full of middle schoolers to begin to see eyes starting to wander. However, this cue is not specific to middle schoolers in fact it is true for adults as well. As a presenter keep a close eye on the eyes in the room. If they start to wander around the space rarely connecting with yours, you know you have begun to lose their attention. Eye contact in today’s culture is becoming less and less common due in large part to our attention spans. If you see your audience’s eyes beginning to wander it might be a great time for a story to help reengage the audience into what you have to say.
Watch their watches.
With the invention of the smart watch your audience has the ability to pay bills, trade stocks, and send emails all from the comfort of their wrist. An audience member no longer has to pull out their cell phone giving the blatant signal that they are disconnecting, to be disengaged from what you are saying. Which is why as a presenter you have to pay attention to the watches or in some cases cell phones of your audience. Checking your watch often communicates a stress on time. If you see your audience doing this, it may mean it is time to wrap up your content or give an opportunity for interaction to add value to what you are presenting. Studies have shown the ideal length for a presentation is just 20 minutes without a break. If you see you audience checking their devices consider taking a break, even if it is just 5 minutes to check their email or go to the bathroom it will give you another 20 minutes of engaged time with them.
Learning to read your audience takes time and repetition, no one can become an expert overnight however keeping an eye out for these 3 simple cues in your next presentation will help you take a next step in your presentation skills.
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