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by Andrew E. Schwartz
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There is nothing wrong with talking to yourself in private. It can be a constructive emotional safety valve. Many presentors, however, talk to themselves in public when they train without the audience’s attention. Their training presentations are boring and dry, and waste both their own and their listeners’ time. It is crucial that a presentor learn how to gauge the level of audience attention. Without audience attention, you might just as well pack up your notes, aids, projector, easel charts, and go home. There is nothing to train but an empty room.
A major cause of this is stage fright. Being so self-involved the presentor has very little energy to devote to making personal contact. It is not unusual for this to happen, and there are ways to avoid it. You can capture and hold an audience’s attention if you begin by giving your listeners your attention first.
First and foremost, you must deal effectively with your own emotions, ego, hang-ups, inhibitions, and fears. This will release you to focus on the audience is their attention level. A presentor must prepare thoroughly, believe in the message behind the words, and be committed to attaining his or her objective. But most important is a continual awareness of the audience members as individual persons, and not as merely a faceless mass.
Observing Audience Attention: There is only one way to find out whether or not an audience is paying attention. That is to look at them, not through them. The best way is to look at individual faces and directly into their eyes. This reveals whether they are looking and listening, and forces them to do so if their attention has wandered. A presentor should make every effort to get and hold eye contact with the audience, since it is the only way to talk directly to people. This may be difficult with larger groups. Sometimes it is necessary to concentrate only on the first few rows and use them to gauge the rest. Yet it is possible with a little practice to look into the eyes of people fairly far back even in a large audience, or to make them sense eye contact.
The larger auditorium audience does pose an additional problem to a presentor, who may be working from a stage or in a darkened room. Here, voice and other devices must be relied on more to maintain audience contact. Other gauges of how well an audience is listening are such things as shuffling feet, movement, scribbling, and general restlessness. All of these must be circumvented if you are to get and maintain attention.
Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.
Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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