Thursday, June 16, 2011

Learn to ignore these audience behaviors

Yesterday Gideon Rachman’s blog at the Financial Times discussed The art of public speaking. He previously spent 15 years at The Economist, and now also writes a weekly column on foreign affairs. Gideon discussed how some people do unnerving things that you should learn to ignore:

“....When speaking about the future of Europe at St.Antony’s College, Oxford, a couple of months ago, I was hugely disconcerted to see a woman, sitting near the front, who kept screwing up her face in disagreement and contempt, as I droned on. I became convinced that she was a professor of economics, appalled by my ignorance. Later, I made inquiries and I discovered that she was actually a former graduate student from the 1960s, with pronounced left-wing views and a very mobile face, who comes to almost all public events at St.Antony’s.”

“When I gave a lecture at the London School of Economics, also this year, a member of the audience fell asleep and began to snore noisily. I caught the eye of his wife, who was sitting next to him, and she shrugged and looked embarrassed. Every now and then she would nudge him and he would fall silent – only to start up again a few minutes later. It really is quite difficult to rise above this sort of thing.”

On Tuesday I spoke at the NACE Intermountain Section meeting in Salt Lake City. My topic was an introduction to stainless steels and corrosion. I’d given basically the same presentation at their Sun Valley Symposium in January 2010. Before I began I asked the audience to raise their hands if they had attended the other meeting. About 6 of 30 did, and I told them it was OK to go to sleep, but not to snore.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

I love the examples given here, and would like help as a teacher to ignore student behaviors! My skill as public speaking seems to be inversely related to the audience response. Go figure!