A speaker must constantly make eye contact with his or her audience. How else would the speaker know if he is getting his or her message across? The audience always want the speaker to succeed. But there is only a finite amount of time before the audience switches off if the message is not creating interest in the minds of the audience.
The speaker must observe the signals coming from the body language of the audience that will tell him or her that the audience is no longer interested in what is being said.
There are a number of movements within the audience that are signals. They include the following:
1. Eating or chewing;
2. Tapping a pen; playing with a paper clip…
3. Adjusting hair, clothes…
4. Texting or taking calls;
5. Looking out the window;
6. Blowing his or her nose;
7. Looking at the wall clock or watch;
These are all physical indications that are easily read or seen.
There are some more subtle ways the audience tells the speaker that he/she have lost their audience. They include:
1. Asking questions at a seemingly wrong time. This could mean that the questioner has not understood your point or is maybe trying to get you back on track. It might also mean that what the speaker is saying is common knowledge to the audience or is not what they paid for or expected to hear.
2. Asking questions that seem irrelevant to the speaker’s speech. This could mean the speaker has lost the audience completely or the message has failed to be taken in by the audience.
3. A silent question time. No speaker is so perfect in getting the message across that there will be no questions. Silence most likely means that the audience simply has had enough and wants to leave.
Once the speaker notices more than a couple of these signs, the time is ripe to change how the speaker is delivering his/her message. He/she may need to involve the audience in some way. It might mean asking a question of the audience or having an activity for them to do to open up the topic. It might be time to offer something controversial. Maybe, the speaker might need to summarise what is left to say and just finish the presentation.
Professional speakers will always provide their audience with a feedback sheet. It is important to offer the audience a chance to critique the presentation. There will be committed people in the audience who will give honest feedback and suggestions for improvement. The evaluation sheet should allow them to do it. Importantly, the speaker, in reading the reviews, must not take anything negative personally but use it to improve the next presentation. It is also important to understand where the negativity is coming from and address the reasons for it.
After the event, it is important for the speaker to review the way they performed, what succeeded, what failed, what needs to be deleted and what needs to be added to the presentation. This evaluation should be done as soon as possible after the presentation.
Finally, taking into consideration their own evaluation and the helpful comments from the audience evaluations, the speaker should prepare an upgraded version of his/her speech for the next time it is presented. This must be done while “the iron is hot”.