The quiet audience member – is it really that they aren’t listening?
What’s going on with that quiet audience member in that corner?
When you are presenting, and notice that quiet audience member (or group), have you ever found yourself playing a tape in your head that includes these questions?
- Others seem to be engaged, what’s going on with that one?
- Should I ask her a direct question to get her to connect?
- Maybe I should just leave him alone – he obviously doesn’t care
- Oh my gosh, he doesn’t like (agree, understand, believe) what I’m presenting
- If only I could get her on board, then I’d be happy
However, what if none of these are the issue? I choose to know for sure that this person has a story, and that I can’t fully know or understand what that story is today. I also choose to respect whatever that is for this person today. And, I have found that this always works! When I respect him, he respects me.There are times when it feels appropriate to check in (at break) with a question to ask if all is ok. I may ask: “is this resonating with you? What can I do to help this land for you?”
There are times when it feels appropriate to simply say a word of encouragement. I might say something like: “I’ve noticed that you’re pretty quiet back there, and that’s absolutely ok. I just want to be sure that you know that if there is anything that I can do to help you get more out of this presentation today, I’d appreciate it if you let me know what that is.”
There are times when it feels appropriate to push a little bit. In order to do that, I usually do it by holding this person as very capable. It might sound like this: “yes, we’re going to be working through this strategic mapping exercise, and I’m confident that your team will love your input.” With my eye contact and body language, I am sending the message that I do see that this might not be where they want to be right now, and that I’ve got complete confidence in their ability to do this one thing! Recall, that sometimes we just need a cheerleader – to know that someone’s on our side.
And I believe that I don’t need to know your story in order to be on your side.
When the presenter is on the side of the audience member, the audience member will likely reciprocate.