How to be a great audience
(and what's in it for you...)
I participated in an interesting experiment today. I was lucky enough to attend career day with 75 eighth graders. Divided into five groups, I got to see a group at a time for about fifteen minutes each.
Within three seconds of beginning my talk, I could tell.
I could tell who had learned the skill of being in the audience and who hadn't. And I'm worried that it might be permanent.
The good audiences were all the same. They leaned forward. They made eye contact. They mirrored my energy right back to me. When the talk (five minutes) was over they were filled with questions.
The audience members that hadn't learned the skill were all different. Some made no eye contact. Some found distractions to keep them busy. Some were focused on filling out the form that proved that they had been paying attention.
What I discovered: that the good audience members got most of my attention. The great audience members got even more... attention plus extra effort. And, despite my best efforts, the non-great audience members just sort of fell off the radar.
This isn't a post about me and my talk. It's about the audience members and the choices each make. It's a choice your employees and your customers make too.
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that information is just delivered to you. That rock stars and violinists and speakers and preachers and teachers and tour guides get paid to perform and the product is the product. But it's not true. Great audiences get more.
Great audiences not only get more energy and more insight and more focused answers to their questions, they also get better jobs and find better relationships. Because the skills and the attitude are exactly the same.
I am too much of an optimist to believe that the lousy audience members in today's program are stuck that way for life. But I know that the longer they wait, the harder it is going to be to change.
The next time someone says, "any questions," ask one. Just ask.
The next time you see a play that is truly outstanding, lead the standing ovation at the end.
The next time you have an itch to send an email to a political blogger or post a comment or do a trackback, do it. Make it a habit.