“I will NOT talk to THOSE people.” AKA: The world’s WORST audience members of all time!

A few years ago when I started telling a few of my friends in the professional speaking space that I was going to start doing more training and keynotes with teachers, one of my buddies replied with that quote that is in the title.  He literally said “I will NOT talk to THOSE people!”  My response was one of dismay and I said something like “What the heck (um, not heck) man?!  I AM one of the THOSE people and what do you mean?”  He then proceeded to GO OFF about us (teachers) as audience members… “People talk to each other the whole time.  They are constantly on their devices. Some people have their plan books out or are correcting papers or looking at paperwork…” He went on and on and on…  My immediate response was to defend us.  However, after I thought more about what he said and then experienced some what he was talking about in my own PD, it was clearly obvious that he was on to something.

As I observed some more faculty interactions at meetings and at PD events, my friend was right.  We are pretty bad audience members.  When topics like this come up, I tend to think more about the “Why?”… So, I explored a little more as to why we might be a tough group present to as a PD speaker.  It became clearly obvious to me as I talked to more teachers and observed more, that the following is true…

Teachers are terrible audience members at professional development for 4 reasons…

  1. The simple quote “Sometimes people are not listening to the speaker because the speaker is not worth listening to!”  We are professional educators.  We present in front of audiences (our students and sometimes peers) all day.  WE are engaging.  WE are funny.  WE facilitate meaningful content.  If the presenter does not bring that, we shut off as an audience member.
  2. Time:  Time is everything to teachers.  The reason we are “doing other stuff” is because we don’t have a lot time to do that “other stuff” and then when we do have the time, it’s usually consumed with less than engaging professional development.
  3. Purpose: “How is this going to make me better as a teacher?” or “That was another 3 hours of my life I can never get back!”  I hear that all the time with PD events.  When the PURPOSE of why we are there is not framed or explained to us or put into context, we shut off.  We have to have a “Because” for all of what we participate in or engagement will be low.
  4. History: We are beaten down by our history of PD that is SO BAD, that it is almost unrecoverable.  Literally YEARS of terrible professional development has put people into an emotional position where when it is real and engaging and meaningful, people are astounded.  Like someone discovering a cure to a rare disease or finding aliens.  We don’t know how to take it!

The one game changer for me when it comes to PD is sitting as close to the front as possible.  I know that if I sit toward the back I’m done.  Sitting toward the front forces me to at least somewhat engage in what is going and I can’t hide.  Try this once and let me know how it goes!

Be the Change

As cheesy as this might sound, if you don’t like the way things are going with meetings or PD, attempt to add something to it.  Take over the format of the meeting.  Go to your decision makers and ask if you can contribute somehow to make the events better.  It’s easy to complain, but have a solution to the issue if you going to criticize it!

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