Anyone can write a speech down and read it out loud to a group of people, but a real presenter delivers it to the minds of the people, persuading them to see things from a point of view or achieve other goals the presentation is set out to do. Your audience can help you do this. Here are five common ways your audience speaks to you and ways you can respond.
1. Pay close attention to the atmosphere of the room
The mood of your audience can determine so much and show whether they are interested in the topic or you’ve lost them along the line. The audience’s facial and body language go a long way in determining the interest of your listeners in the room. A pale or emotionless face with crossed arms, fidgeting with phones, wristwatches, looking backward or at the ceiling or outside a window can signify the loss of interest, and slouching can indicate tiredness. It’s your duty as the speaker to keep the energy in the room alive. You can do that by engaging them, getting people to talk, ask questions, share a personal experience, but keep it in control.
2. Make sure there aren’t any side conversations
One easy way your audience can get distracted is if you allow side chats. Most of the information you’re trying to pass across will definitely get lost as attention from your audience will be diminished, and this will defeat the purpose of the event. If you notice your audience chit-chatting, it is appropriate to politely ask the audience to stop so that you can continue. It is important to remain in control and not let your audience veer.
3. Is your audience taking notes?
If your audience scribbles down what you say once in a while, it’s a good sign that they are interested in what you’re saying and find it valuable. If you’re offering rich content, you might try encouraging your audience to take notes at the beginning of your presentation. You may even consider asking them questions at the end of your presentation to give them a reason to take notes.
4. Listen to sounds coming from your audience
There are many sounds your audience can make to tell you if they like where you’re going or not. For example, a murmur could be how your audience is trying to tell you they disagree with you. A light cheer would tell you that they are with you. Gasping could be a sign of shock or disbelief. Use the sounds your audience makes to your advantage. It might be an opportunity to solidify a point or correct misunderstanding, use real-life situations, tell a story, or ask for their opinions.
5. Take a pause; be silent for a while
When there are mixed reactions from the audience, side talks, murmurs, and other body language, especially due to something you said and disagreed with, don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s okay to stop for a while and let them come back to you. Look at your audience, stand erect and confident, and you will naturally call the attention of the audience to you. Rather than being frustrated, use that moment to analyze your audience, look at the body language, facial expressions, and gauge where you would like to go from there. You may decide it is a good opportunity to reengage those participants who are less interested by asking them questions and bringing everyone back to your control.
There are many ways you can read your audience, don’t be afraid to take an extra pause at moments where you can solidify a point and read your audience as they take it in.