Effective communication starts with adjusting your technique for your audience.
One of the trickiest types of audience to deal with is a neutral one.
This is the audience that doesn’t know much about you or your topic.
They may have a general idea of what you are talking about, but they don’t really know much about it.
They are not on your side, but equally, they’re not against you either.
Your task is to get their attention and to convince them.
By the end of this article, you understand how to get and keep their attention.
Neutral audiences don’t have a prior interest in your topic. It is up to you to spark their interest:
People get more interested when they know what’s in it for them.
The first step to getting the attention of your neutral audience is to tell them the benefits.
If you are trying to convince an employee to use a new tool, explain how it will help them in their day-to-day life.
If you are speaking to a large audience, tell them how they’ll benefit from listening to your speech.
Focusing on a common problem is another great way to get a neutral audience’s attention.
When your audience shares the problem, they’ll be keen to hear your solution.
Ask your audience for their opinion or advice. It will grab their interest and get them involved.
Asking the audience for advice will also make them feel important and trusted.
Use any of the following phrases:
Questioning is another effective tool for gaining your audience’s attention. It can be used to create involvement and to guide the conversation.
When we hear a question, we always start looking for an answer. This is how our minds work.
According to Neil Rackham and John Carlisle, expert negotiators spend twice as much time asking questions as average negotiators.
Ask open-ended questions to get more information from your audience.
For example, instead of asking, “Do you feel frustrated about this new policy?” ask, “What makes you feel frustrated about this new policy?”
Start by asking easy questions.
This will get your audience ‘warmed up’ and engaged. They will be much more likely to stick with you then.
Stories are very powerful. We are wired to engage with them.
They engage the audience and grab their attention.
Turn your neutral audience into an engaged one by sharing a relevant story or real-life situation.
Stories will be very effective in sparking a neutral audience’s interest, they:
When the audience doesn’t know you, it’s difficult for them to trust you.
If you have common acquaintances, use them to build a connection with your audience.
If you have acquaintances in common, this will help you find common ground and build rapport with your audience.
Let’s have a quick look at three mistakes that people can often make with a neutral audience.
A neutral audience needs persuading.
Preparing with data and statistics to support your case can be very helpful.
Make sure that you provide your audience with sufficient data to make your case.
Keep the facts simple, straightforward and easy to understand.
If you want to convince a neutral audience, try to avoid using complex arguments.
A neutral audience will not be interested enough to listen to difficult, complicated theories on a subject they don’t care much about.
Until the audience is positive on a subject, avoid complicated explanations where possible.
In some situations, you need to realise when enough is enough.
There is a limit to how far you can persuade people in one session. If you try to push them further to your point of view, they will naturally start to push back.
So be realistic. It may well take more than one session to 100% convince them.
You need to read your audience and not try to push them too far in a session.
Different types of audiences require different approaches. Knowing the type of your audience and how to deal with them is a vital influencing skill.
Dealing with a neutral audience can be tricky.
They’re a blank canvas, so if you approach them in the right way, you can make great progress. The trick is to not take them for granted.
Image source: Pexels,
Zoom burnout or fatigue is a real problem and it’s not going away.
Many companies are now moving to long-term WFH (work from home) arrangements.
This makes managing it proactively to avoid stress and burnout even more important.
Learning how to deal with multiple long video calls is now a key part of a workplace resilience strategy.
How do you know when you are experiencing burnout?
The most common signs of burnout include:
Preventing burnout is a key part of learning to be more resilient at work.
Proper time management will help you prevent Zoom burnout.
You need to plan your time and give yourself adequate breaks between Zoom calls as well as limiting their overall length in a day.
Different people have different tolerances for video calls and so you will need to figure out your threshold and then manage your time accordingly.
Unplugging properly from work will allow you to recharge your batteries.
The danger with WFT is that work and home life blend together. You never fully switch off from work and relax.
If you struggle with this a good tip is to making a list of the tasks you want to get done during a day.
Once you have completed those tasks you then give yourself permission to unplug from work fully.
While you are away from work it is always worth thinking about developing a gratitude practice. Gratitude offers a wide variety of benefits and will help you make the most of your time away from work.
Human brains are not designed to multitask- see this article.
Your brain will works best if it concentrates on one thing at a time.
This includes video calls. One way to make video calls both more stressful and also less effective is trying to multitask during them.
It can be tempting to just quickly check your emails or similar if someone is rambling during a call.
Avoid this as much as possible. Not only will the email be poor but you’ll actually be loading more onto your brain.
Multitasking will leave you more stressed not less. Although you may well feel stressed and under pressure resilient people understand that multitasking is not a good strategy for dealing with stress.
Not knowing how long a meeting will go on for, or what will be discussed makes the meeting more stressful.
It will also make the meeting less productive as people will be unprepared.
If it is your meeting prepare an agenda. If it isn’t your meeting ask for an agenda to be prepared in advance.
Some people lack the self-confidence to do this. However if you are to look after yourself and keep resilient you will need to develop the self-confidence to stand up for yourself, and this is a great way to start – with something relatively small.
Agendas mean you come to the meeting prepared and also allow you to gauge progress during a meeting.
Overscheduling your day will only serve to make it more stressful.
Avoid loading more stress on yourself by organising back-to-back meetings without a clear break between them.
If you have back-to-back meetings and your meeting is running late you’ll now have the additional stress of being in a difficult position.
You need to either apologise and leaving your current meeting early, or apologise to your next meeting for joining late.
Working from home has been great but brings new challenges and difficulties.
This makes it important that you learn new resilience and self-care routines to manage this new way of working.
Hopefully, the tips above will help you to avoid Zoom burnout.
Everyone has to find what works best for them in their situation but we’d suggest try the tips above as a good place to start.
Listmaking, as opposed to genuine prioritisation, is a common trap that people fall into when working on their time management.
If you are listmaking you’ll continue to be overwhelmed with demands on your time, albeit just in a more controlled fashion!
If you are prioritising, then you will see a genuine improvement with more time to think deeply and focus your time and energy on your most important goals.
Let’s take a look at how to distinguish between the two, and how to avoid the trap of listmaking rather than true prioritisation. Getting this right will take you a long way towards truly effective time management and is a big part of what we teach on our courses about managing your time.
List-making VS Prioritisation
The difference between list-making and prioritisation is one small but crucial step.
Listmaking is really a symptom of someone who lacks real motivation to make the difficult decisions that prioritisation requires.
The process for prioritisation, put simply is as below:
People who make lists only complete the first 4 steps on this list. They skip the most difficult and most valuable part of the process which is the refocusing of their time on their highest impact tasks by taking some lower impact projects off their list.
People who don’t have good control of their time often start these processes stressed. They know that they have multiple projects which they’re unlikely to deliver on time and feel out of control.
They find the process of getting their commitments clearly laid out and prioritised is a very good way to reduce their stress levels. Having done that they now feel back in control of their workload.
At this point, the planning fallacy (humans’ natural tendency to under-estimate how long something will take) combined with their reduction in stress often kicks in to make them feel relaxed in a way that they haven’t for a long time. They now feel that they now don’t need to remove some items from their list as they feel relaxed about their work load. This is not the same as having a clear plan to focus their time on their most important tasks. For more on this see the section on hyperbolic discounting in our post Time Management: Managing Meetings.
Sadly they have done most of the work but will get almost none of the return.
Producing a list that ranks projects by their impact is just the preparatory work. They now need to deal with the lowest return projects effectively.
If you don’t deal with the low return projects all your effort is for nothing. You’ll be back in the same place, namely feeling out of control and stretched too thin, again before long. You’ll never find a long term fix to your time management issues.
Given the feeling of relaxation that a proper prioritisation exercise can bring it’s the equivalent of planning a holiday but never actually taking it!
Avoiding The List-making Trap
Prioritisation is uncomfortable. If it wasn’t everyone would do it automatically.
So before you start on this process you need to accept that you will need to make some uncomfortable decisions and trust that doing so will be worth it. You also need to build up your enthusiasm for sticking with the process through the more difficult times.
The best way we know of making sure people follow through with the whole process is:
1. Think clearly about how your poor time management is impacting your life currently.
How does it impact your most important relationships? How does it impact your health? How does it impact your performance at work?
It is really important to understand clearly what the current cost to you of not getting this right is. This makes it clear why you need to do something and what the true reality of your current situation is.
2. Think clearly about how your life will improve once you have proper control of your time.
How will your performance at work improve? How will your improved focus and energy manifest itself in your performance? How much more will you enjoy your time with family and friends? What new hobbies will you be able to take up?
This is the other half of the equation. In the previous step, we got clear on why you need to make change and what you need to leave behind.
This is building a clear picture of something that you can enthusiastically move towards. Something to motivate you and develop your enthusiasm for developing a time management practice.
3. Clearly understand the process, that it is an ongoing process and COMMIT to it.
Time management and prioritisation are not ‘one and done’ processes. They are ongoing.
Think of them like cleaning your teeth. You brush your teeth every day without thinking about it. Prioritising your workload is an ongoing practice and, to do it properly, you need to complete all five steps regularly. Again, you wouldn’t only clean half of your teeth, would you?
If you are new to prioritisation and think that step 5 will be difficult, take heart you are not alone! Accept that you are learning a new skill and building a new habit, start small and commit to it.
Perhaps start by just delegating one thing knowing that you will build up over time. As you start to see the benefits that it brings to your time management you will naturally want to do more of it.
The most important thing is that you commit to it and stick with it. Understand that it is an everyday habit that you are going to incorporate into your life.
Learning to prioritise properly isn’t straightforward or easy. It is something that most people find an ongoing challenge. However, it is integral to delivering high performance and so a skill that you need to commit time and energy if that is your goal.