The Glances

This post has nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with communication

I’m not a great speaker, but someday hope to be one. I have learned that being in tune with your audience is key when it comes to giving your presentation. When I’m at public conferences and speaking, I watch twitter in real time, in hopes of avoiding an audience Groundswell.

Like a good doctor, my job is to learn and listen, diagnose problems, and offer remedies to my patients. Since I often speak to the web strategists at a company, (VP, Dir, Manager of Web) and related marketing cohorts I’ve started to become really in tune with the non verbal gestures within a room as it relates to their core pain points. Body language, which often accounts for 80% of all in person communication, really helps me to tune into what’s really happening at the company:

Antagonist/Protagonist
Often analyst are brought in to settle disputes using data and insight between debating groups or product teams, and I can often tell when questions are being loaded, aimed, and fired at me for me to then resolve. For example, when one individual asks a particular loaded question, I immediately watch the glances of everyone else in the room –they’ll likely shoot right over to the antagonist. After I give my answer, you can often watch shoulder tension fall or raise, which can sometimes indicate where more conversation will happen later.

Find the power
It’s easy to spot the decision maker in the room, when the topic of budgets, roles, responsibilities comes up in topic or audience question, in a small room, it’s easy to see where the eyeballs all look. Most people don’t even realize they’re split second glance to the decision maker, but when I see a pattern, I can often tell who holds the power.

Echos in the backchannel
Recently, I spoke with a product team, and they were furiously discussing (and perhaps critiquing me) in the backchannel IM. While few of them looked up from their laptops at me, I could tell they were absorbing, reacting, and discussing the data and insight I was bringing. I could hear the increase of typing of notes or instant messages in between certain topics –they were reacting back.

While this observational method isn’t always spot on, it’s important that a speaker be very in tune with the audience he’s speaking to, as we know how non-verbal communication can provide data about what’s really happening underneath.