One of the biggest hurdles for aspiring speakers and one of the biggest strengths of established orators is audience control. The knack of controlling an unruly audience should be learnt by anyone who wishes to present a topic in front of an audience to successfully drive home the point.
Be it a corporate presentation, a business meeting, an informal speech or even a conversation with a friend, demanding and commanding the attention of the listener becomes an integral part of effective communication skills.
Audience control is not only useful in face-to-face interactions but is also used in the broadcast media to keep up the ratings.
There are many ways to achieve audience control or handling a disruptive person. Read about how our columnist Snoopy Kumar learned the art from a teacher.
The other day someone very close to me came calling to seek my pick on coaching techniques for budding managerial aspirants.
I do not know whether he homed on to me specifically or was fishing around amongst his known well-wishers. Whatever, the discussion was interesting and thought provoking bringing back memories of our school days and some special masters.
It was when we were on the topic of class control and how to keep the audience totally engrossed that I was reminded of a very interesting master and his unique techniques. Of course in the early 60s when we were in our early teens everything he did was magic making us believe him totally and follow him blindly.
Being in a boarding school environment the master was visible all through the day and till very late into the night and you know how observant young kids could be. Even after leaving school and well into our professions we went back to our Alma Mater and was always received with love as ex students and reverence depending on our professional achievements.
It was while on one of these visits and during a heart to heart chat with him that this particular master revealed his secret. He even challenged me to try it when the opportunity presented itself. Now then you must be keen to know what I am talking about.
According to my master, irrespective of the status, age, or professions of your audience and despite the eminence of the speaker once the back of the man on the podium is turned away towards a black board or any such thing to write something, 30 to 60pc of the audience would start to murmer.
Now this fraction and the decibel level will keep increasing as the time elapses and the speaker delays to turn back. But in his class we would keep spell bound because he would turn back swiftly and throw a big piece of chalk very accurately landing it painfully on the turned head of a defaulter.
Now the magic was that the chalk would land on the bull's eye to instill pain and fear as it would always be so sudden. We always wondered as to how the master's missile homed on so very accurately. Couple of such missiles in the early part of the one hour lecture and he had no talking for the rest of the class. We still haven't revealed the secret.
Recently I was to speak to an audience in a prime institution and thought about testing my teachers technique. I was stumped when I reached the venue.
The auditorium was well packed, the rostrum and stage setting was filled with the most modern audio and video speaking and teaching aids. But despite my firm and clear instruction there was no black board and chalk anywhere to be seen. I looked at my co-ordinator and asked in a rather heavy tone where the black board was.
But he with a rather contemptuous look and with real pride for his institution informed me that blackboards had been done away with a decade ago. Well I was not going to be stumped and with full reverence to my teacher I slowly turned my back and stood staring at the blank rear wall.
Sure enough the murmer started and kept going up till I turned back after some considerable gap to tell my master's secret.
I told my audience as to why I had wanted a black board. There was total silence. They were so eager to hear me tell my tale.
I lowered my voice and could see the ears literally sticking up. I told them that I had proved my teacher's observation about the ill manners and indiscipline of any audience right here in their prestigious institution.
Now the part with regard to the accuracy of my teacher's missile. He had told me that one didn't have to seek the
target for the launch. With his theory on the percentages earlier mentioned he would pre-determine the target with his back
to the class, turn and fire his salvo all in one motion to terrific effect. Now how is that for class control and grip on your audience. Without doubt my further progress that day was in complete silence from the audience till the question hour.