Read Your Audience Well

We have often heard that Communication is a two-way process. For working professionals, effective communication is important for success, but for Facilitators, it is not just important, but business and life critical.

 

As Facilitators and Speakers, the one skill that is needed to be mastered is how to read your audience like a book, and once read, know the ways to adjust how you come across to your audience. During Train The Trainer certification, we learn to differentiate between different kinds of audience. You have the argumentative knowalls, the shy and timid ones, the incessant talkers, the Questioner, etc. Each type has its own challenges. So, the first key task is to read your audience accurately and deal with them in an appropriate way. As a Trainer and Facilitator, this author believes that generally 10-20% of your audience will warm up to a Trainer within the first hour of the session, and another 10- 20% may never warm up to you at all, even if you are the 21st Century avatar of Dale Carnegie! But irrespective of how your audience reads you

 

 

As a Trainer, your job is to ensure that the learning from the session is internalised by your audience, even if a fifth of your audience remain unmoved by your style.

 

 

Some tell-tale signs that can provide us with strong cues have been mentioned below:-

 

Nod and Smile: Good Trainers are used to these signals from the audience. When participants are nodding and smiling, chances are that they are lapping up your training. The challenge here is to sustain the momentum.

 

Active Note Taking: Some participants are very diligent and try to capture all the key ideas being shared. They assiduously take notes. Such profiles, you can be assured are serious, and make as much from the session as possible. This is more common in functional Training sessions than behavioural sessions. However, if you are engaging enough as a Trainer, the pens and notebooks will be out in any session.

 

Making Eye Contact: The audience follows you as you move around. And move around you should, and not be an armchair Facilitator. Eyes, as they say, are the mirror to your soul. No experienced Trainer can miss the expression and look in the eyes of the participants. If they are alive with curiosity and interest, you have a good thing going here. If, however, they are glazing over (rampant in post-lunch sessions), you know you have an uphill task here.

 

Laugh Easy: No good Facilitator should stay away from humour. If your humour is good, the first 20% mentioned earlier, will love your session. Your jokes may even have them cracking up with laughter. However, humour is also a litmus test, which tells you, who the other 20% are, who may not be easy to move or get a reaction out of. Expressions may remain unsmiling, even dour. Often, Facilitators feel demotivated when their audience does not respond to their humour and other cues. Do make an extra effort to win over this constituency. However, do not allow them to bring down your mood. Do not ignore, but do not take it to heart either.

 

Asking Questions: When participants ask questions, and insightful ones at that, it is a moment of arrival for the facilitator that you are on the right course. Facilitators are trained to reflect and deflect, but also engage and answer. Remember, while the more articulate participant may ask, it is probably a question that the other participants too had in their mind. Good style is great, but the power of a facilitator comes from expertise, and this is the chance to show the depth of your knowledge. Do so, by all means.

 

The facilitator is on his toes, and in a session, he or she has to deal with real-time challenges as they come up. Some participants will always be doodling or daydreaming as you give your best with energy and enthusiasm. Doodling may not always mean participants are distracted, but is often a way people concentrate on their thoughts. But daydreaming, having side conversations, Whatsapping under the table, constantly checking time, looking disinterested etc. all show a dip in interest or even active indifference. In such cases, the Facilitator can do a host of things.

 

Energise: The way the day begins is different from the energy level in the Training Room after lunch. Remember the human mind is good at accepting information in slots of 45 to 60 minutes at a time. So, ideally do short energisers which bring out the smiles even on the dour ones and break the monotony.

 

Discussion Mode: Get into a two-way discussion mode to use the inputs to gauge the level of the audience. There can be wide differences between a group of middle managers versus C-Level executives. Discussions give you hints on how to pitch your content at their respective wavelengths.

 

Activities: Remember, we are all different kinds of learners. Even besides that, cognitive learning tends to the default way to learn, but it should be re-inforced with activities, role plays, videos to ensure that multiple senses are engaged and the participant is not merely thinking his way to learn something new.

 

Tell Stories: Stories and anecdotes are what get the participants hooked. They appeal to our emotional side and cut through cognitive filters in our mind. When you tell stories, participants connect at an emotional level and are more accepting.

 

An impactful facilitator is one who not only works for a living, but shapes minds, beliefs and indeed lives. Anyone can be a good facilitator, provided you read your audience cues well and then adjust your style to match the need of the audience.

 

 

Dipankar Das is the author of Cracking The CSAT Code at the Call Centre. He has worked in diverse organisations, including Genpact, Concentrix and with the Tatas. He is currently, Vice President and Global Head of Skill Development at iSON Experiences.

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