Reading the Room: 5 Zones of Audience Attention

More travels, conferences, etc.

When you’re speaking, be it on stage, in a boardroom, or even with your colleagues at the water cooler, you’re likely to notice different levels of attention and engagement. I’ve noticed roughly 5 zones of attention and indicators about where people are:

  • I don’t care: The audience simply doesn’t care. They don’t want to be there.
  • I’ve already got it: The audience is bored by hearing something they’ve heard before.
  • I get it: The audience is excited and engaged by what you’re saying.
  • I think I get it: The audience is excited but confused.
  • I don’t even understand what’s being said: The audience is frustrated.

When you’re reading the room (see this previous post for the basics), pay attention to these key, visible indicators in combination:

  • Note taking: Note the pace at which people are taking notes. How fast are they typing or writing? How much are they writing?
  • Side conversations: Note the number of side conversations people have, and whether the interactions are quick check-ins (“what did he say”) vs. full conversations.
  • Posture: Disengaged audiences tend to slouch or recline. Engaged audiences lean forward or sit straight up, depending on how they’re taking notes. Frustrated audiences hunch forward but aren’t taking notes.

The 5 general zones and their corresponding indicators map out like this:

State I don’t care I’ve already got it I get it I think I get it I don’t even understand what’s being said
Note taking Low Low High Medium Low
Side convos High High Low Medium High
Posture Disengaged Disengaged Positive engaged Positive engaged Frustrated

Your task as a speaker, as a marketer, is to keep people squarely in “I get it”. Most everyone in a meeting or talk starts out there. Watch for indicators that people have strayed too far to “I’ve already got it” or “I think I get it”, as those are warning signs you’re not aligned with what they can handle.


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You are one company

Signs of the recession

A brief reminder for those folks whose companies have more than one office/group/division/franchise/department:

To the outside world, you are one company.

Your social media team represents the same company as your call center. If your service is stellar in one and lackluster in the other, then your company will have the reputation of the weakest link in the chain.

Your high end product bears the same logo as your low end product. Your customers will remember most what they liked least, so if you cut corners on the low end product, chances are they’ll believe you cut corners on the high end one, too.

Your remote franchise at the ends of the earth has the same sign on the front door as your franchise in the biggest city on Earth. People will expect the same experience behind the sign, no matter where they are. If you disappoint in one location, you automatically tarnish all locations.

Your marketing team has to live up to what your PR department promises.

Your sales team has to live up to what your marketing department promises.

Your fulfillment team has to live up to what your sales department promises.

One broken promise makes every previous promise a lie.


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7 Basic Plots of Content Marketing: Conclusion

Over the past week or so, we’ve had a chance to look in depth at each of Christopher Booker’s 7 Basic Plots as they apply to marketing and storytelling:

Overcoming the Monster: The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force which threatens the protagonist and the things/people/places the protagonist cares about.

Rags to Riches: The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, or a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.

The Quest: The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Voyage and Return: The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him/her, returns with nothing but experience.

Comedy: Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstances, resulting in a successful or happy outcome.

Tragedy: The protagonist is a villain who falls from grace and whose death is a happy ending.

Rebirth: The protagonist is a villain or otherwise unlikable character who redeems him/herself over the course of the story.

To wrap up, I thought I’d include a very simplified decision tree to give you some sense of what story archetype you might want to use for a given situation. As printed in the image, this is by no means the “One Right Way” to use each archetype. Archetypes are like tools; there are a finite number of ways you can use a hammer safely and effectively, but an infinite number of things you can build with it.

flowchart.png
(click to download a PDF version)

May you tell your marketing stories in a much more compelling manner!


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