Gauging your audience is an important skill as you're mastering your English communication because if you can adapt your talk based on your audience, you will increase your ability to get your message across. Read on to see how applying the techniques of Thought Chunking can help you gauge your audience.
How To Gauge Your Audience
Gauging your audience is all about being aware of reactions, body language, eye contact, and facial expressions as you are talking to a group of people, presenting in a large auditorium, or having an intimate conversation with someone.
This act allows you to adjust your message and delivery to make sure that you are getting the intended reaction out of your audience – most of the time, this response is simply comprehension. We want our message to stick with our listeners.
In a sense, Thought Chunking is also about gauging. As you speak in groups of meaningful words, highlighting ideas and emphasizing words, you pause for a moment afterward. This brief moment, while it serves as time to organize your next string of thoughts, also allows you to look around the room at your listeners.
Do they look puzzled? Break down your idea a little more and give an example.
Do they look bored? Work on your melody and vocal inflection to energize your audience.
Do they look like they are focused and understanding? Great! Keep going!
While this pause is great and arguably, necessary, many of my learners come to me with the worry that when they pause between chunks, they're afraid people will interrupt them. In fact, they often come to our coaching with that experience.
Now, I know this can be frustrating, especially when you're making the effort to work on your English communication and apply new speaking techniques.
Soon after learning how pausing and emphasis work when thought chunking, my students soon find that in their attempts to apply The Diamond Method (Out-of-the-classroom learning! Makes me proud!), they, in fact, get the surprising results they are looking for. People wait for their next thought.
And this happens because the emphasis in combination with the pause are bering utilized with confidence.
You see, right before you pause between your Thought Chunks, it's important to end the chunk with a firmly emphasized word, generally right before the pause. This signals that you're in the middle of making a point, or explaining your ideas and that you'll keep going.
Imagine the reverse scenario, as you're finishing your Thought Chunk you lower your voice and the last few words are almost inaudible or certainly softer than the start of the sentence. This almost always conveys timidity and a hesitancy that says you don't know what to say next or at least that you don't have any more ideas because you've been quietening your voice.
See how that would give the opportunity for someone else to interrupt? Or signal to them that you've finished with your ideas and now they can squeeze in?
When you emphasize focus words melodically, then you can gauge your audience fairly. You're using communication skills, you're taking attention away from your accent, and you can use the pause between your ideas to really see how well people are with you.
Another thing I'd like to bring up regarding gauging an audience is the fact that it is quite different in-person versus online.
When you're talking or presenting in person it's so much easier to read your audience. You can easily look for non-verbal cues.
Are your listeners nodding their heads? Are your listeners tapping their toes or fidgeting with their hands? These cues can be decoded and help you figure out whether your message is being understood or is of interest to them.
Using Thought Chunking as a way to gauge your listeners in-person is pretty straightforward when compared to gauging your audience through a video call.
Given you can't read many non-verbal cues and given your eye contact isn't truly eye-to-eye, it may be easier to lose your audience's interest when presenting online.
Here are a few ideas to gauge your audiences and keep them engaged when presenting online.
1. Don't forget the non-verbal cues
Although we're presenting through a screen and only our face is often visible to our audience, we can't forget about our non-verbal cues. Try varying your facial expressions more as they are front and center as you present, and don't be afraid to put some distance between you and the camera to allow for your hands to gesture as you speak.
2. Add more enthusiasm to your Thought Chunks
Try adding more energy to your chunks by playing with your vocal inflection on emphasized words, and stay cognizant that your melody energizes your audience more so you can get reactions from them that will allow you to gauge them as you continue speaking.
3. Pause more frequently, but be firm!
Now, remember what I mentioned earlier – don't jump into a pause without ending with a strongly emphasized word or idea. But also, when presenting online, you may need to gauge your audience more frequently, which might mean adding more pauses here and there to aid in their comprehension, but also to make it easier for you to quickly survey the call and see if anyone is puzzled.
4. Get creative
Whether you're presenting on Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, etc., most video platforms have interactive options. To make your presentation engaging you can ask listeners to respond with a thumbs up or an emoji during your Thought Chunking pauses. Or you can even poll your audiences with the polling feature prompting questions from your speech to keep them engaged. Giving your audience something to do will help you read their reactions instead of just looking at the faces on a screen.
Gauging your audience and Thought Chunking go hand-in-hand. While the pauses between Thought Chunks allow you to think about and craft your message, you can also take a moment to quickly gauge your audience and interact with them. If you remember one thing from today's post, remember to end your Thought Chunks firmly by emphasizing the focus word with intention – no one will dare interrupt!