8 Ways to Save Yourself from Apathetic Audiences

#6 in the ‘8 ways to save yourself from…’ series

There’s nothing worse, in my view, than seeing someone ploughing on when they can see some of the audience has gone to sleep, some are using their phones, others are writing their shopping lists and a few are probably thinking “I just wouldn’t do it like this.” Not only do I feel sorry for the audience but I also feel sorry for the person at the front because it can’t feel great to know they aren’t really connecting. Fortunately there are myriad ways to connect, engage and motivate your audience. Here’s just eight…

1. Start by asking what brought them along? It’s not rocket science but it is cognitive science because people always pay attention if you talk about them. Whether you’ve got a group of 8 or a group of 800 this is an easy place to start. With a group of 8 you may hear from them all, but even with a group of 800 you can get some responses and people will notice that you care what they are thinking.

2. With a big group ask them to tell the person next to them or behind them what’s brought them along. Why are they here? What do they want to get out of the next 30 minutes or however long you have. If they’ve taken the effort to get to the event, possibly even paid for it, they will definitely have a reason for attending. The ‘Why’ of anything is a huge motivator – just listen to Simon Sinek.

3. People go through many different states whilst they are learning. Sometimes they need to be attentive and other times need to reflect, plan or question, so build in time for that too. Harvard Business Review found that with only 15 minutes of reflection time at the end of a session people remembered far more than others who simply carried on ‘working’ for 15 minutes.

4. Raise curiosity levels as often as you can. Dopamine is a highly motivating neurotransmitter in many ways. We like the ‘feel’ of dopamine in our brains and you can stimulate it easily as a trainer by provoking curiosity.

5. As a caution to this, make sure you satisfy that curiosity or expectation. If you leave someone wondering all day they will eventually feel frustrated, distracted and demotivated. Simple but important things like taking breaks when you said you would will prevent frustration and stop people tiring.

6. Ask questions regularly and wait for answers. When we are asked a question our attention is inexorably drawn to the subject because our brains start going to look for answers. Questions are a great way to link new learning to what people already know so vastly improving the chance they’ll remember it.

7. Environment is something not all trainers think about but it has a huge impact on your learners because our brains and bodies are so linked; for instance learning is better in a cooler rather than warm environment. Different room layouts have an enormous effect on how well people engage with each other, you and the session. Don’t accept the room layout you’re given – demand the one your learners need. If you don’t know what that is yet then it’s time to find out.

8. Virtual Reality is one way to completely immerse and engage someone but it’s individual and currently still expensive to build – but how can you recreate that immersive environment in your environment. Think about making the context for the learning as real as possible to engage people.

And please don’t think just because your topic is technical, complex or difficult that you can’t create an engaging physical and psychological space for learning where the participants are engaged, motivated and interested because you can. Perhaps you just haven’t experienced how you can do it yet.

To immerse yourself in and learn from, a really brain friendly learning environment, join us at How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer