I have two cats and like cats are prone to do, they get into things they shouldn’t. I love my cats but they are naturally nosy and they get into so much. I realized the other night, as one of my little beasts poked her nose around an electrical outlet that when she turned to check and see if I was watching her, which I was, that the glare that was on my face did not do anything to dissuade her from her exploration. It wasn’t until I waved my hands in a large gesture and made a sound at her like air leaking from a tire that she paid attention to me.
The message I learned from this situation was “cats don’t understand non verbal messages.” They are animals, responding only to the sound of the cat food hitting their bowls. If I want them to listen, I have to get their attention. In a lot of ways your participants or attendees on a conference are the same way, attending, but hungry for the information you’re about to lay on them. That is what they are going to respond to. You can get more of a response if you do three things that pet owners do.
- Big Gestures. Stepping in front of a crowd means you have to command their attention. People are going to do their own thing unless they have something to pay attention to. The way you get someone’s attention is by grabbing it right away. You have two minutes to make people sit up and pay attention, and then you’ve lost them to their laptops or smart phones.
- Give them treats. When my cats do something good they get a treat, maybe some cheese or a can of wet food. Throwing your participants an added bonus is going to make them stay focused and hang on your every word, just in case they might get another one.
- Don’t be afraid to get their attention. Most cat owners probably know the wonders and amazement of the squirt bottle of water. Cats hate water and it’s the quickest way to get their attention. While I’m not advocating pointing a Super Soaker at the crowd and going crazy (oh, God, someone please do this) I do think you need to figure out who you’re speaking to and get their attention in a way that is appropriate for those who are attending.
It may seem like a crazy way to look at your conference participants, but I don’t mean it a bad way. Hopefully your participants have the resolve not to wind themselves around your legs in excitement.