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focus_Help! I’ve Got a Big Audience!

Help! I’ve Got a Big Audience!

By Brian Lange

I recently received a request from a trainer to share some thoughts on what adjustments might be made in order to accommodate a large audience (50+ people in this case). It is tempting to view that as a totally different experience from that of a smaller (10-25 people) session — however, I’ve found they’re more similar than one might think. In some ways, we just have to think “bigger” than our usual deliveries.

One strategy is to identify what potential concerns you may have about a big group, and then find a way to tell the group what you need:

• “With a big room like this, and the high ceilings – I’m really going to need to ask that you project your voices so that others will hear you when you contribute.”

• “You might consider standing when you contribute to help ensure people hear you.”

• “We need fresh energy and perspectives for this interaction, so I’d ask that you consider finding a partner who is someone you may not know well.”

By sharing what you need as the facilitator, it gives the audience the chance to choose whether they want to step up and play a role within the session. It helps them be accountable — because they have chosen to — rather than simply being compliant to some rule you’ve laid down. This is one way you share ownership with the audience.

Here are some additional thoughts to consider:

• If the audience is seated at tables, try to limit table size to six. Sidebars and distraction tend to escalate with more people.

• Make a list of all potential pitfalls as you review the leader’s guide or notes – and create a plan to overcome them.

• Be visible. Go visit the folks on the sides and in the back of the room during your delivery.

• Your voice/inflection/animation will be key (use a lavalier microphone for sure)! You need to focus on presenting a compelling audible experience: You have to fill up that big room! A great technique is to use the voice memo feature on your smartphone and press “record” during a practice delivery. Challenge yourself: “Am I interesting to listen to?”

• Clearly ask the group to “Listen for my voice while you’re working on your activity. I’ll give a one-minute or 30-second warning for when we’re going to come back together as a group.” This gives them a heads-up of what to expect.

• Get proof from the audience (by asking for volunteers to recap) that they know what they’re about to do as they embark on an activity.

• Support any instructions for an activity with a PowerPoint slide with a few bullet points (not paragraph description).

• Make sure font-size is legible for a big group. This is often not the case (for example, we use a minimum of 32-pt, bolded font).

Finally, don’t be afraid to have them do small group work. Just because they’re in a large session, it doesn’t mean you have to do all of the heavy-lifting from the front of the room!

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Brian Lange, blange@perim.com, is with Perim Consulting and serves as lead facilitator for LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers Core and Masters Workshops. Find blogs, tweets and more at Perim.com.

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