Pretend Like You’re Interested.

by EvanJPalmer

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I’ve recently been giving series of presentations to large(ish) groups at work. In my opinion they’re good presentations, and I’ve received some great feedback.

While I was giving the presentations I noticed a few different categories of body language given by attendees in the room – there seems to be a spectrum of visual attentiveness.

Some people looked directly at me, and nodded as I made points, leaning forward on their chairs attentively while I explained finer points in detail with a diagram.

Other people looked mostly at the slides, even though there isn’t a massive amount of info on there – maybe a few word or an image. They tended to have a fixed focused on the projection, rarely looking at me.

There was also a third type of attendee who seem disinterested and was on their phone or looking out the window for whatever reason.

I have a few points I’d like to make about this.

Firstly, I was initially disheartened and put off by the latter type. Why weren’t they interested in my awesome presentation? Am I doing it wrong? Am I not speaking clearly? Is my subject complete and utter crap? Have they realised I’m actually just a big phony?

No, I don’t think so. There are probably lots of reasons these people were looking disinterested. Maybe they’re super familiar with the topic already? Maybe they were deep in a debugging session before the meeting, and haven’t fully context switched yet? Maybe they have something on their minds from out of work? Or perhaps that’s just how they listen and learn? For whatever reason, I think it’s important not to be distracted and dejected when presenting to people with this sort of body language – which was my initial reaction. 

Secondly, the people who stared at the slides throughout the presentation. These people were fairly easy to present to. They didn’t give me much feedback, but I felt as if they were letting the information sink in, and it was easy to roll through the motions and get the content out to them.

Thirdly, the more active attendees. The people who looked at me, and nodded. The people who smiled when I made a light remark. The people taking notes. Thank you! Having some feedback or recognition really helped me. When I wasn’t sure if I had explained myself well seeing these people jotting things down in there notpads/laptops confirmed that I was on the right track. I think the more people who were like this in the room, the better my presentation went.

In conclusion, if you’re attending a presentation perhaps it’s worth considering how you present yourself. Show some interest and that enthusiasm may be fed back to you! If you’re the one doing the presentation, my advice is to be ready to expect different types of body language and don’t be too disheartened by blank faces.

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