“Make your thinking visible”, is a phrase I learned from a dear mentor, and one I repeat often to other facilitators and those who gather.
Sharing (some, not all of) what’s in your head and what you’re doing with the audience or students in the room serves a few key purposes. 1) It promotes safety, and reduces uncertainty so that others trust where you’re taking them 2) it helps destroy the distance between you and the audience 3) it pulls them into the unique, singular moment you’re sharing.
When we make our thinking visible it helps an audience feel that they are too.
After all, if your audience is invisible, then there is no reason for them to be in the room. They could be anyone, or anything.
Here are some questions and observation tactics you can use to determine the visibility of your audience:
- What energy is the audience giving you? Do you use it, or ignore it? How can you encourage more?
- What direction does the energy flow? Hint: it’s not enough for it to flow between an individual participant and the person on the stage, or only between those on the stage
- Does your audience talk or engage with each other before or after your gathering? If not, what is that silence telling you?
- Do you need your audience? If the answer is yes, how do you show them?
When we treat an audience as invisible, they sit, waiting to be told what to do, or what to think. In these instances, the flow of information and energy is often one-way.
Making your audience visible is often a key difference between a gathering that is purely meant to entertain or inform, versus one meant to educate, and even engage.
We all gather for a reason. Do you know why your audience came? The five people who had their question answered by the speaker feel visible. How can you see the rest?
It’s not enough to create something for our audience. Create something with them instead.