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Verbal Dexterity: Talking the Talk » Blog Archive » Your Mont Blanc Pen Says “Yes”, But Your Eyes Say “Get Me Out Of Here”–How To Recognize A Disinterested Audience

Your Mont Blanc Pen Says “Yes”, But Your Eyes Say “Get Me Out Of Here”–How To Recognize A Disinterested Audience

We all tend to believe that we are worth listening to. Unfortunately, we are not all correct. There are some business leaders and speakers out there (and they may not know whom they are) that just drone on and on and on.

For some reason, I tend to have lots of meetings with these individuals.

While they are numbing their audience into submission (be it in a small meeting or at a large conference), their listeners are completing their “chores to do” list and trying to draw a doodle that looks like Obama. During a one-on-one meeting or interview these oblivious “babbling brooks” (think 1950’s insurance salesman) have no clue that their prospective client has mentally checked out of the conversation minutes or even hours ago.

So, what are the signs to look for that can give you, future speaker, insight into where your audience’s head and ears are?

Here are some tips:

  • Work on developing great peripheral vision. You need to engage and include all listeners in your speech and notice and account for their reactions as well.
  • Observe their body posture. A slanted or slumped body means disinterest, disrespect or boredom.
  • Focus on the listener’s eyes. It will be hard for them to not look at you while you are looking at them. Their indirect eye contact, even for a few milliseconds, may reflect their desire to find a literal and figurative “exit.”
  • A listener’s lips can also unconsciously reveal anger, interest or faked neutrality. People show teeth and subtle smile lines when they are engaged.
  • If you are close enough, listen to their exhalations. Slow exhaling through their nose or more audible releases through their mouth can demonstrate a lack of patience with the speaker or the topic.
  • Excessive self-caressing (rubbing hair or arms) by the listener signals uncomfortability.
  • Numerous leg crosses reveals nervousness or a desire to change the topic.
  • Arms folded is a conspicuousious gesture that screams “keep your distance, buddy!”
  • Audience members looking at their wrist watch are not hoping that you will talk longer.
  • Attendees spending most of their time looking at their Blackberry instead of you are not thinking about giving you a standing ovation.
  • Ok. So your audience is about to fall asleep. What can you do?

  • Vary your voice volume, inflection, speed and pentameter. If your voice bounces, so will your audience.
  • Move around while you speak. If the audience has to follow you, they won’t zone out.
  • Don’t make it a one-way communication. Engage the listener. Ask personal questions and opinions. People love to talk about themselves.
  • In the middle of your spiel, clap your hands or purposely drop something on the table. The noise will jolt them out of submission.
  • Have chocolate or coffee nearby. Caffeine always helps.
  • Have a humorous anecdote or joke at the ready. Laughter improves blood flow and keeps the audience on your side.
  • Give the audience an exercise to complete or participate in. Physical and mental stimulation can keep their juices flowing.
  • Have something interesting to say, with great transitions.

  • Today’s Tip: Don’t just talk in a vacuum. Pay really close attention to your audience and their eyes, body language and gestures. They are giving you instantaneous feedback on how you are doing. Sure, they can fake it here and there, but not during your entire speech. If and when you see that you are losing them, shake things up with your voice, body and, of course, really good content.

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