Can you really tell when your audience has had a full feed of information?
Amazingly the answer lies in the eyes and ears of the participants.
Look first at the eyes
And if you look at the eyes, you’ll think you’re the best speaker on the planet. You’ll think your audience is rapt with attention. This is because the audience will be looking at you with amazing concentration.
Experienced speakers call this the ‘deer in the lights syndrome’. When the audience is staring back at you, it’s not because they’re over-excited with your information. In fact they’re tired.
Those eyes staring back at you are their attempt just to keep their concentration going. Eyes that are fluid, easy-going are ‘learning eyes’. Eyes that stare back at you are eyes that are tired and are forced to focus—hence the ‘deer in the lights’ stare. And the eyes are only one indicator.
The other indicator is the ear
Look at the ears of the members of the audience. Are they bright red or a deep shade of pink?* If they are, it means your audience has had enough. The more tired a participant gets, the more the ears seem to get a deep colour. This gives you fair warning that you need to back off; that the audience needs a break. Or that you just need to stop the workshop for the day.
And if the ears and eyes don’t give you the feedback you need, the sigh of relief will do just that.
Announce that you’re going to have a break and you’ll feel that wave of relief go through the room.
And this may be contrary to what you expect. As a diligent trainer you want to really give your audience the most possible information. And you really want them to learn.
But learning is not done by force-feeding. When the eyes and the ears start to give you signals, you have to be in a position to watch for those signals and react accordingly.
But what if you’re on the last day of your workshop and there’s a ton of learning still to go?
Well you need to plan better for the next workshop, so that your audience never gets to this point in the first instance. But let’s say you’re stuck in a workshop and there’s no way out.
C’mon, there’s always a way out. You can offer to send them a video or a follow up course. In today’s world you can teach anything via the Internet, and if you can’t finish, then offer to send follow up stuff later. And the audience will be grateful.
Their eyes will blink again.
Their ears will turn drop a few shades of red.
And they’ll consider you to be a brilliant trainer, because you detected the tiredness in the room.
And you, you know that you didn’t really detect any tiredness. All you did was look at their eyes. And their ears.
And you knew. You just knew.
*The ears trick is a little trickier with darker skin. The darker the skin, the less the indication on the ears. In which case either look for the lighter skin in the room, or just focus on the eyes.
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