CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – DECEMBER 9, 2020
How can the Illusion of Transparency bias your audience members?
While a speaker is susceptible to the effects of the Illusion of Transparency at the front of the room, audience members are also susceptible from where they sit. Impacts on your audience members may include:
- Simmering frustration.
Suppose that an audience member who sits in the front row is having trouble following your presentation, and further suppose that this frustration persists for a lengthy period of time, perhaps across several sessions of a course you are delivering. This frustration may build and build, causing significant internal stress. If affected by the Illusion of Transparency, this audience member may assume (falsely) that you must knowhow frustrated they are. Further, when you fail to address their (unvoiced) concerns, they may conclude that you don’t care about them.
- Undelivered feedback.
Years ago, I gave a five-session course to some junior colleagues. After the fifth session, I visited one student in her office to ask how the course went for her. Among her comments, she revealed that she had been very confused in the third session. When I asked why she hadn’t spoken up at the time, she explained that she thought her confusion was “written all over her face”, so she didn’t feel it was necessary to provide the feedback explicitly.
How can you mitigate the Illusion of Transparency bias for your audience members?
There are several strategies you can employ for mitigating the negative impacts of the Illusion of Transparency bias in audience members. These include:
- Analyze your audience.
- Thorough audience analysis will provide many insights into what your audience is thinking, and where they are likely to encounter problems during your presentation.
- Explicitly seek feedback.
- Develop a habit of consciously seeking feedback from audience members in many ways. Attempt to uncover trouble areas in your presentations, and work hard to address them. Do this before, during, after, and between presentations.
- Pay attention to subtle clues.
- Even though your audience will not always verbalize the things they are feeling (because they overestimate the degree to which you can know their mental state), there are often subtle clues available if you know what to look for. Negative facial expressions, closed body language, restless movements, frequent checking of electronic devices, and many other things can be clues that your message is not getting through.
- “Test” your audience to gauge their understanding.
I often incorporate informal exercises or discussions where I ask my audience questions based on material I’ve just covered. For example, after I introduce ten principles for effective slide design, I then present slides to my audience and have them match each slide to the principle it illustrates. By listening acutely to their responses (both what they say and what they don’t), I’m able to gauge their understanding in real-time.
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