Seth Godin wrote in interesting post on being a great audience.
I wonder why it should be a goal to be a great audience. The goal should be to learn something and through listening and interaction you may learn more. But what if these 8th graders did not want to learn from you? What if they did not find it interesting? (No offense Seth.) What if they could have chosen to be an audience at a topic of their interest? Everyone has interests. And who knows why they do not find it interesting. The list can be endless.
On the other side of being an audience and learning is presenting and teaching. Where people are learning, people are teaching. Where there is an audience, someone is doing something in front of that audience. Isn’t it the teacher or presenter who should make sure that it is interesting or pull the non-participants into the discussion? If the interaction is the goal? Do you really want everyone to interact? Sometimes there simply isn’t time or opportunity.
I teach a course at a university every year. And I think it is d**n hard. I read up on the subject of teaching. In one of the books it said that if students do not participate, do not blame the students, but find a way to involve them. They are customers too and although the teacher may decide on what the students have to learn, the way the message is delivered has to be effective. Adjust the media to the audience. That’s what you do in marketing. Why not apply it to teaching? A teacher or a speaker is really the marketer of his own message. Otherwise, all your efforts are in vain. Over the years I also learned that the people that never ask questions and just sit there leaning back, may surprise you in the end.
The other day I gave a guest lecture. Some people asked questions and we had a discussion. People were very attentive. It was really quiet at times. Some leaned forward, some leaned back. They applauded afterwards and one student sent me a very nice e-mail in which he summed up his take on my teachings. He didn’t say much during the lecture, but he was dead on.
I find Seth Godin’s post interesting, but there is more to it then just blaming (part of) the audience.