I was recently speaking with friends about how to capture attention in a professional environment. Among the group were a couple of doctors who teach in academic settings and a curriculum coach from an inner-city public school. When we discussed audience engagement, the consensus was:
“If you want to get doctors to listen, give them pens; if you want to get teachers to listen, serve breakfast…”
We all teach professionals in dramatically different settings — whether in the hospital, at a school, or in a corporate office, we all strive to capture attention.
Regardless of the audience, you have to set people up to listen. A lot goes into building an efficient agenda and leading a productive meeting. One piece that is often neglected is how we set people up to listen. For your next meeting, think about creating a listening environment:
- What time of day are you meeting? If you’re battling against the early-morning rush hour or the late afternoon slump, think of pick-me-ups you can include. Caffeine, sweets, or fresh fruit. Little additions can make a big difference in people’s attention.
- What’s the goal of your meeting? Can you move the setting to be more conducive to your meeting? If you’re always at the same conference table, think of changing things up. Try a different floor, meeting in a collaborative space, or simply switching your usual seat. New environments lend themselves to creative ideas and different ways of thinking.
- Start people off in the right frame of mind. Maybe you need to send out a pre-read, start with a short video, or show a tangible example of your work. Think of ways you can draw the audience in and get them thinking about your issue right from the start. If they’re well-prepared or you pique their interest right away, you’re more likely to be successful.
Audience engagement requires more than preparing an amazing slide deck or putting together a thoughtful message plan. It’s not as simple as handing out goodies or serving breakfast, but if you’re proactive and help put your audience into the right mindset for listening, your meetings will be more efficient, more effective, and possibly even more fun!