How To Make the Most of a Captive Audience

After failing miserably at my first two nine to five jobs, I needed a new way to pay the bills. I searched tirelessly for a job that I could have fun with while helping people and preparing myself for goals I had set. My answers came in the form of an industry I was very familiar with. My dad had previously been my principal at Darlington High School, and mom was a one-on-one student aid for 16 years in the same district.  They suggested I look into substitute teaching.  As I mulled over the idea of becoming a glorified babysitter, I started to see how much this opportunity could help me successfully accomplish my future goals.

I thought to myself, ‘If I can figure out how to keep elementary/middle school kids engaged & attentive in the middle of class, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to control any audience placed in front of me.’ With that information in hand, I marched back to school. However, instead of being the pupil, this time I was the sensei.

Over the course of five months as a substitute teacher, I taught subjects ranging from Science to P.E. and everything in between. There was something new to be learned in every classroom, but one stood out as a clear favorite for me: special education. If you’re not on your A-game every minute of every day, you’re going to lose control of your class very quickly.

These four steps aren’t just lessons for future substitute teachers, but also business people, entrepreneurs & life-lovers!

Be Interesting

We cannot avoid the fact that some people are simply not interesting. Not because they haven’t had interesting experiences in life. No, they simply don’t know how to share their experiences in an interesting manner. Everybody is interesting at heart, everybody has their own story and everybody has been through their own set of hardships. How you communicate those hardships are what allow your audience to connect with you.

There is a very fine line between having a pity-party and sharing your story. Nobody likes a complainer, so learn how to communicate effectively through storytelling.

Be Inclusive

How many events have you been to where speakers just stand up on stage and lecture? Think back to your school days, if you were sitting in class and had to listen to a teacher go on for an hour straight, were you interested? I don’t care how amazing the topic is, if I am being talked at for an hour straight, I’m going to lose interest. So how can we stop ourselves from going down that path? By being inclusive in our storytelling techniques.

The key to keeping an audience engaged is keeping an audience involved. You won’t lose anyone’s attention if you’re constantly circling back to something that requires action on their end.

Show Genuine Concern

I don’t care how strong you think you are, life can be downright mean. We rarely know the true challenges being faced by the people we interact with on a daily basis. When’s the last time you asked them how things are going outside of school or work?

Showing genuine concern for someone’s well-being isn’t a priority for many people because they’re too worried about themselves. As a person asking for other people’s undivided attention, don’t you think a deeper understanding of your audience would be not only the right thing to do, but also helpful in your preparation?

Provide Value

What do you bring to the table? There are enough fake people that oversell how incredible they are but show zero tangible results. All people care about is value added. Develop a clear statement on the value you will be providing to your audience. If utilizing these tips for public speaking, it is my recommendation that you release your value added statement before the event. This will help to draw an audience that finds value in what you’ve got to talk about. This in turn will help to keep distractions away from those who want to be engaged.

Begin communicating with people that are difficult to communicate with, such as people that struggle focusing for long periods of time. When you can learn to effectively communicate with them without issue, you will be able to command and engage any audience. 

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