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?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have seen another group of listeners: The ones who are not supposed to listen to you; they are just there to look at you and think about different sorts of things, probably because you remind them of something special…
But in general, I believe that the manner of listener depends on the subject and the way the speaker develop it. Sometimes I enthusiastically go to a presentation to listen to a lovely subject, but the speaker ruins all of my zeal!
That's the way it is…
Have a wonderful day Nava jan, my sharp observer!

Daisy said...

I'll add another category although it's very similar to what you have in your post as the latest group.

There are those audiences, who listen carefully, enthusiastically, and nod once in while. Using body language, they assure the speaker that they are happy to be there. They are encouraging audiences.

When I'm the speaker, I enjoy seeing this category among my audience.
Have a good day Nava jan

Shobeir said...

I think your categorizing is thorough...
We have a prestigious professor in our department (organic chem.) whom starts the seminars pretty attentive... In the very first moment he found a question to ask and challenge the student, he suddenly turn in to one of those sleep-beauty persons! (sometimes he was seen snoring! better to say heard)...
Then he wakes p and start asking his question!
So if he is in your seminar and presentation just watch out the first 4 slides!

Hiva said...

hahaha, Nice categorizing, To be honest I am sometimes passive listener (trying hard not to be sleeping beauty :) ).

In conferences, there are those who will give a lecture next, thus all the time they are reviewing their own lecture in their mind, they don't listen to the lecturer and they are too stressed to go to sleep or to be naughty ;) . according to your category they can be called "stressed passive listener=SPL"

Nava said...

Thanks guys for all the other interesting groups.

Hiva jan, I so much like your honesty ;)

Esfand` said...

:D interesting .... I was a good listener once ... dont know now :P

I am kinda always thinking about my own stuff in weekly group meetings... sometimes something comes up and I am ...ohhh.. wow! this is good :D how did s/he do it ? :P n thats it ... back to my own work .... as I dont have time neither energy to go into that ...

n yet I see my professor ... darn hes good ... he is eating cadies and chocolates through out the meeting ... he listens with concentration for a really small portion of time, then he starts talking with students around him... and asks questions from the speaker at the same time... brings up a joke or two ... n yet he hardly ever misses a word ... he knows all of it ... and hes on top of it ... darn ...I wish in a couple of years I cud surprize him :P

Hes a good listener as he is always ready with such good ideas about the presentations that we give... I cant put him up in the 3rd group, not the 1st, and he never sleeps...

some times back ... when I hadn't given up on teasing people...I used to drive the presentor's crazy by asking questions, n relevant ones... to understand things... but it seems to me now that even presenter is not interested in telling as now every one seems to be soo used to of having bad listeners :P

Enjoy listening!! =D

Esfand` said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nava said...

Hi Esfand,
I liked this other category, those who don't show very clearly, but their ear is acting like a bog "collector" and actually listening to every bit. This sometimes comes from a broad knowledge on the field.

I don't think anyone gets used to having bad listeners. Looking at the audience from where you are standing, it really makes a difference who's listening to you.
Thanks for the comment.