Werner Steele was angry.
He’d had enough.
He added a roll of duct tape to the supplies in his black back pack and headed downstairs to the room where he would get the revenge he deserved.
He walked quietly and deliberately. All the while thoughts running through his mind about what they had done to him.
They’d laughed at him.
They’d ignored him.
When he’d tried to explain how they could be partners, collaborators, they’d brushed him off, turned the other way.
Today was payback time.
Today he would show them.
He’d done his research and planning. He’d managed to get hold of a book that explained the best way to handle things. Everything was set.
Today was the day Werner would be the boss.
He opened the door to the room where he would take his hostages.
He hit the lights and scoped the room. All clear, ready to go.
He began assembling his trap.
In 5 minutes he was done. He sat on a desk at the front of the room and waited.
Approximately 15 minutes later his unsuspecting victims arrived.
Werner watched with contempt as they found themselves seats.
Once the 20 oblivious people were settled, Werner moved to the back of the room and locked the door they’d entered.
It was time.
They were his. Finally Werner had his hostages.
They would be forced to listen to him.
He turned off the lights. Removed a small black object from his pocket, and pressed down deliberately.
The first bullet point faded slowly onto the screen.
Werner surveyed his audience.
Settle in, he thought, I’m in charge for the next two hours.
So, this story is extreme, but it hints at a big problem with business presentations…
No audiences, just hostages
Most presenters don’t start out to take hostages, but that’s how it ends up.
The presentation is dry, the presenter boring.
Audiences disengage and remain seated simply because they have to be there.
Through good preparation presenters can keep their audiences engaged.
But, even the best presenters Need to keep a watchful eye out for the audience losing interest.
Here are the 5 early warning signs of a bored audience:
1. Time checking
One person looking at their watch, or the clock on the wall, is no big deal.
A number of people regularly checking the time is cause for concern.
If you find you have a room full of clock watchers, it’s a signal you haven’t won them over and you need to do something quick smart to get them to come along with you.
2. Avoiding eye contact
If they’re looking at the floor there are 2 things that could be going on:
- They are not interested
- They are passively resisting your message
Both situations are bad and require you to take action to gain the audience’s attention and buy-in.
They are not engaged at all if they are messaging, facebooking, or tweeting.
If you notice a lot of this going on it could be time for a reset with the audience.
4. Closed body language
Similar to the audience is avoiding eye contact, closed body language (such as arms folded) could be a sign of passive resistance to your presentation.
5. Side conversations
The odd whisper here and there can be a good sign. Attendees might be engaged and throwing comments back and forward about your content.
Side conversations are dangerous when they are extended or widespread. In both cases they are an indication of disengagement.
What should you do when you identify a bored audience?
It’s time to take action.
At the point you notice the audience may be bored, you immediately need to change something.
Change the atmosphere in the room. Here are some ideas:
- Ask participants to stand and refresh
- How long have you been talking? Do they need a bathroom break?
- Ask attendees to change seats
- Ask a rhetorical question when you introduce the next topic
- Ask the audience a question, eg. “How many of you are frustrated with the current system?”
- Switch off your slides and move to the center of the room
- Tell a story related to your topic
- Pause for longer than usual until attendees begin to look up
To avoid the audience becoming bored in the first place, prepare your presentation so that you do something different, surprising, or shocking every 5 minutes.
What do you think? What’s your experience? Let’s chat in the comments below…