Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Feature presentation, feature audience...
There are always two major parties in a presentation; the speaker, and the audience.
I have personally read and heard a lot about the speaker; various styles, different manners, regular routines, interesting or boring presentations. How s/he is supposed to look the audience in the eyes, have a loud and clear voice, use the body language properly, be entertaining, etc. But I’ve not seen much about the audience. Supposedly they are there to listen, and apparently there are no “specific” styles of listening, right? But believe me, there are!
I was recently at a presentation, and for some reason, I started looking at the audience. We were sitting all around in not such a big room, so it was easy looking at people and observing their styles of “listening”, without being noticed.
Some were simply listening; looking directly at the speaker, blinking their eyes every now and then, hearing the words passively. Didn’t look that it mattered too much for them if the speaker was talking about the history of philosophy, or the latest political news in the world. He was there to talk, they were there to listen, simple as that. They usually continue their passive listening all the way throughout the talk, up to the questions. Their necks turn toward the one who asks the question, and back again to the speaker. They are the most boring audience god has ever created!
(Also in the same category, those who start listening with open eyes, and half way through presentation go to a nice comfortable sleep.)
Another group of audience includes the ones who actively listen, and even react. Laughing at the jokes, eyebrows frown in concentration, shaking their heads either in agreement or disagreement, they actively participate in listening. They become a part of the talk, enjoy it, and interact with the speaker which provides the necessary energy for the talk to go on. They often raise questions, to understand a concept or discuss on a belief, and listen to the answer, giving the speaker the chance to explain the issue. They are the best audience ever.
And somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, is the “naughty” audience. They are participating in the talk, either just to refer to it later (“…Oh, that one! Yeah, I know, I was there myself, but it wasn’t that interesting…”), or were enforced by somebody else, a spouse, a friend, a parent. They usually cannot stand not being the center of attention. They get bored very soon, maybe in the first ten minutes and then start talking or joking with their friends, giggling at something not very funny, looking at others, and making a comment every now and then about one sentence of the talk which they grab on the air. At the end of the talk, they usually ask questions, sometimes even not related to the subject, to attract the attentions from the speaker back to themselves. Then, no matter if the speaker has answered the question or not, they (often starting with “…thanks for your answer, but let me add my opinion to it…”) become a junior speaker and talk endlessly about their ideas and opinions, which could even be irrelevant to the talk. They make people annoyed, and even enjoy it. Anything that shifts the center of attention to them is worth the try!
And then, there is me. Listening to the talk, observing people’s manners, and taking notes, careful not to bother the speaker, or awaken the sleepy beauties!
How many other categories can you add to these?
Posted by Nava at 8:09 AM