How to Tell If Your Audience Is Engaged

February 21, 2015

Sean Holladay

Sean Holladay is the Co-Founder of Crowd Mics an award winning app that turns your phone into a wireless microphone.  He is the CCO or Chief Connection Officer as he is able to connect with and converse with just about anyone on LinkedIn.

Two event organizers walk into a room and scan the audience. Upon leaving the room, the first event organizer says, “No one is engaged. They are all texting and reading emails or having side conversations.” The other event organizer says, “You’re wrong. Those people were taking notes, and sharing sound bites on social media. The others were debating what the speaker was saying.”

The problem with perception is that everyone creates their own. Which of these organizers is right? Which of these perceptions is reality? Unless you start looking over your attendees’ shoulders, it’s going to be hard to know what they are in fact doing on their electronic devices. Luckily there are other ways to determine if your attendees are engaged.

Three observation techniques, when combined, will tell you for certain if your attendees are engaged. The first is interpreting non-verbal cues correctly, the second is to pay attention to verbal cues, and the third is analyzing session evaluations.

Let’s first look at non-verbal cues. Take a look around the room. Are people slouching in their chairs, yawning and fidgeting? Are they slow to respond when the speaker prompts them to take an action? Those are signs your audience may, in fact, be bored.

If the audience is leaning forward in their chairs or sitting with a relaxed posture, nodding their heads, or smiling, they are most likely engaged and paying attention to the speaker. However, positive non-verbal communication is not the only indication your attendees are engaged. They might be frowning and or shaking their heads. They may purse their lips and cross their arms. While not in agreement with the speaker, these attendees are actively engaged.

Non-verbal cues are also important. Are your attendees groaning or laughing in the right moments? Are they applauding? Is it a polite, soft applause or is it done with enthusiasm? Are they raising their hands and asking questions? If your audience is doing these things and doing them with vigor, they are engaged.

However, a room that is silent does not necessarily mean they are bored. Check the non-verbal cues to understand if the speaker has completely lost the audience’s interest, or if she has them hanging on her every word.

Your final way to gauge your attendees’ engagement is by coming right out and asking them. While asking questions about the setup of the room and the quality of the speaker is good feedback for the event organizer, it doesn’t tell you much about the level of engagement. To understand engagement you need to focus your questions on the content of the session.

Three great questions to ask are:

What was your top takeaway from this session, or a simple open-ended what did you learn from this session?

As a result of this session what will you do differently or what do you feel you will do better?

As a result of this session what are three actions you will take when you get back to your office?

If your audience was engaged, they will have answers to these questions and be willing to share them. Even if they disagreed completely with the speaker, they would most likely have something to share. An attendee that was not engaged will either skip the evaluation, or they will give very vague answers.

When you combine all three of these observation techniques, you’re perception of your attendees’ engagement levels will be much closer in keeping with the reality of the situation.

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Just when it seems like Las Vegas can’t get any bigger, brighter or more exciting for groups, MGM Resorts raises the bar again. The company continues to invest and innovate across its portfolio of Las Vegas resorts, with new attractions and upgraded experiences for attendees of all interests.  Remodeled Guest Rooms MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world with over 5,000 guest rooms and an 850,000-square-foot conference center. It is home to the newly remodeled MGM Grand Studio Tower—700 reimagined guest rooms with a fun mid-century vibe. Nearby, the iconic New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino recently completed a $63M redesign and remodel of its 1,830 guest rooms and 155 suites. Down the street, Bellagio Las Vegas is sporting renovated rooms in the Spa Tower with sunrise-inspired decor and luxurious soaking tubs in Premier King rooms after a $110-million transformation. Reinvented Luxury Experiences The Luxury Meetings District, made up of Bellagio Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas, is now more connected than ever before. A new interior walkway opened this October for a seamless attendee experience – connecting Vdara, Bellagio, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, guests can now walk from Park MGM to Bellagio in around 15 minutes. New on the scene in the Luxury Meetings District is Cathedrale at ARIA, TAO Group’s upscale establishment specializing in exquisite French-Mediterranean cuisine offering elevated private dining experiences that opened in May. Heralded by World’s Best 50 Restaurants, GQ and VOGUE, LPM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is opening this fall and will deliver its signature spontaneity and imaginative celebration of France’s Mediterranean cuisine, art, and culture to the unique luxury resort in impeccable fashion.  A “New Wave  for Mandalay Bay A new wave of enhancements and experiences has arrived at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, including Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar, an 8,445-square-foot restaurant that opened this June, perfect for pre- and post-game eats and drinks. Event planner’s favorite, Chef Michael Mina’s StripSteak, received a full renovation and now includes one of the largest private dining rooms on The Strip. Retro by Voltaggio debuts a one-year residency with a fun take on pop culture of the 80s and 90s with classic American dishes. An exciting addition planned for 2024 is Swingers, a 40,000-square-foot oasis of street food, miniature golf and art at Mandalay Bay. Most exciting for meeting planners, the 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center  is undergoing a complete refresh, with lightened space, added eye-catching art, and improved technology infrastructure for even more flexible space. Energy-efficient digital signage now leads the way with faster internet speeds and new AV options. From renovated guest rooms and meeting spaces to celebrated dining options and dedicated teams, MGM Resorts is dedicated to delivering exceptional and innovative meeting experiences.