An Executive’s Best Techniques for Reading a Room

Think back to the most successful talk or presentation that you’ve given to your internal team. How did you know it was going well?

You could probably tell that your audience was interested and engaged by their frequent nods, intelligent questions, and emphatic clapping after your concluding remarks.

Whether you routinely speak to a group of eight or a room of 80, one of the most elusive facets of public speaking is that no presentation is ever the same, even if its content is. It’s this uncertainty that makes honing your presentation skills quite the challenge. Ask any speaking guru for tips on improving delivery and effectiveness and they’re likely to mention reading the room.

This Holy Grail tactic of an effective public chat has become a bit of a myth. It’s tossed around quite a bit but rarely ever defined. Arden Coaching asked its executive coaches to share what they advise their clients to do when tasked with reading the room.

Want to know just the right time to use that witty one liner you’ve been saving in your back pocket? Read on for more below.

Assessing Your Speaking EnvironmentArden Executive Coaching | An Executive’s Best Techniques for Reading a Room

First, it’s important to consider the time of day that you’ll be presenting. Delivering your team discussion at 8 am? Prep to wake up a sea of yawners and make your points clear and concise for drowsy notetaking typists.

In general, if you’re giving an early talk to your team, an after-lunch corporate chat, or an end-of-the-day pitch, you’ll need to make sure that you have the high-octane portion of your delivery ready to go.

An environment that’s poorly lit, too warm or cold, or that’s disrupted by an outdoor distraction can also impact how your audience perceives your message.

The Importance of Eye Contact

Eye contact is a definite fundamental when it comes to making sure that your team is attentive. Are they maintaining eye contact or do they have their heads down in their laptops?

Engaged audience members taking notes will still keep their focus on you and have a steady cadence to their typing. Facebook perusers may glance at you occasionally but won’t wear the same contemplative and encouraging expression.

Observing Body Language and Attention

Body language is another key aspect to consider while delivering a speech and probably the number one way to gauge whether others are picking up what you’re putting down.

If you’re presenting to a room with several rows of seating, look to the middle row for the truest reading of your performance. Attentive individuals will be seated still and looking your way. If you see attendees facing away from you, doodling, or feverishly texting, it’s time to rein them in.

When in Doubt, Trust Your Gut

You can manually have the temperature adjusted, pick the perfect time slot, or have a killer opening line and still be faced with an unreceptive bunch. Reading the room can help you know when to pick up the pace, change your approach, or poll your team for questions. Aside from keeping your audience in check, the best thing you can do is trust your gut and be confident in your story. Success will follow!

If you’re interested in improving your public speaking or team communication skills, contact Arden Coaching to learn more about the many benefits of an executive coaching partnership.

Arden Executive Coaching | An Executive’s Best Techniques for Reading a Room