Speak to People who Pay Attention
by Ray Strackbein
I've heard many speaking coaches, trainers, and professional speakers urge emerging speakers to involve and focus on those in their audience who are not paying attention. Early in my career, I taught traffic violator school as a low-risk way to develop my speaking and training skills -- after all, if someone didn’t like my presentation, what could they say: "This class was so bad that I'll never come back again?"
In one traffic violator school class, a man in his mid 20’s was not paying attention. At the break, I approached him and said I needed him to pay attention otherwise I could not give him the completion certificate he needed to present to the court. He asked me to step outside with him. We went outside.
Once outside the classroom, he broke down and cried. He told me that week before, he had attended the funeral of his older brother who had been drinking and died in a traffic accident. He found all of my talk about traffic accidents and my stories about my experiences as an ambulance driver very upsetting.
Speak to and engage those who respond. Focusing on the people who enjoy your presentation gives you energy; focusing on those who don’t respond can drain your energy.
Focus your effort on your audience members who are excited and present.
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