Regardless of what response technique may be convenient in a given situation, one thing is certain for the aware trainer: different techniques will drive you deeper and deeper into the realm of subtlety, which is precisely where the art of using response points belongs. For most trainers, these direct questions will be the best method to determine how well the idea presentation is progressing.
If possible, have a friend or associate sit in on the presentation for the express purpose of serving as a critic. They should divorce themselves as completely as possible from what would be the normal interaction of a regular audience member. Their job is to evaluate the feedback techniques clinically and objectively. They should observe both you and your audience, and note your effectiveness and their attention and reactions. In certain cases it might also be advisable to have prearranged signals similar to those used in broadcasting studios to tell speakers and performers to speed up, slow down, and how much time is left. The main aim is to get an objective evaluation of yourself for future reference and improvement.
After back-burnering your own feelings, you must observe the feelings of your audience. Observation is a very direct way of obtaining feedback, but your evaluation of the feedback must be objective and realistic. When trainers allow an audience member to disturb them through heckling or insults, they lose the ability to objectively analyze and control their group. Understand that it is by instinct that we take such affronts personally, but in training it is necessary to overcome this reaction. A look of disbelief or disapproval from a member in the front row should be duly registered, but don't take it to heart. If you ask a rhetorical question and get an unexpected reaction, contain it and continue. Having fully analyzed your audience, the chances of your being thrown by such situations are reduced to a minimum.
In the final analysis, audience feedback will help you to walk away from your presentation with a much greater chance of knowing not only how good it was, but whether or not you've actually accomplished your stated objective. Above all else, you should remember that you always must be just as much an audience analyst as a trainer of ideas. In conversing with individual members of the audience, bear in mind that you owe them just as much attention and respect as you want from them.
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CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA., a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.