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|
|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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