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Communicators Read the Room and Change the Temperature


“Not all readers become leaders, but all leaders must be readers."

-- Harry S. Truman

There's a difference between a thermometer and a thermostat -- both can tell you the room's temperature, but only one can do anything to change that temperature. The Law of the Thermostat says that good verbal communicators not only read the room but also change it.

Whether you're talking to one person or a room filled with hundreds of people, the desire is to connect your audience to your message.

Bad communicators can't read the room; instead, they ignore their audience and only focus on broadcasting their content. "A speaker who can't read the room is like a tone-deaf singer. His performance is ineffective, and it's painful for everyone present."

Good communicators are like the thermometer; though they understand the room's temperature, they don't do anything to change it; the room's temperature falls solely on the audience.

But great communicators are the thermostats; they read the room and make adjustments to change the temperature! These communicators "can take a cold room and make it warm and inviting so the people are enjoying the atmosphere" and connecting with the message.

If you want to change the room, consider these seven practices instead of just reading it or ignoring it.

1. Take a Temperature Reading Before Your Audience Arrives

Before you get up to speak, consider how the space will contribute to or deduct from your communication.

  • Will the lighting allow you to engage with your audience?

  • Is your proximity to them conducive to connecting or distancing you from them?

  • How well will your audience be able to hear you?

  • Can they see you no matter where they sit?

  • Is the space set up in a way that compliments your style and movement?

2. Know & Understand the Temperature Indicators in the Room

There are some elements of the atmosphere you can't control as the communicator that will either make the audience more or less receptive. John calls these Temperature Indicators."

Cold Room (more challenging): 

  • Formal gathering

  • People are required to attend

  • They are unfamiliar with you

  • They are unfamiliar with your subject

Warm Room (more receptive):

  • Informal gathering

  • People want to attend

  • They are familiar with you

  • They are familiar with your subject

But remember, you're a thermostat! So, if you anticipate a "cold room," it may take a little extra effort, but you can warm it up by how you present yourself (uncomfortable vs. confident) and how you engage the audience before you start on your message.

3. Watch Your Audience

"20/20 communicator's vision is seeing clearly who is there, how they are reacting, how they are responding, and how they are interacting." Don't just look at your notes, but watch your audience:

  • What are their body language, postures, and facial expressions telling you?

  • Are they skeptical or engaged?

  • Are they getting restless, hungry, overwhelmed, or needing a restroom?

As a great communicator, you need to adjust to accommodate your audience. If you lose them, you may never get them back.

"You never want your audience to be finished before you are. The moment your audience is finished, you are finished." -- John C. Maxwell

4. Be 100% Present

"Communicating effectively requires every bit of a person's focus and energy. Otherwise, your audience might say, 'It was a very moving speech; in fact, most of the people left before it was over.'" If you're distracted or only giving a portion of yourself, your audience will feel it, and it won't feel good.

5. Engage the Room

Don't just talk to your audience; talk with them! "If you can get people to respond to you and talk with each other, you can warm up the room. Most miscommunication is the result of assuming your audience is with you when it isn't. When people interact with you, they're showing you where they are."

6. Stand Out in the Room

If you're familiar with John Maxwell, you'll know he loves making up words! His word for this chapter is "remarkableize," he defines it as you would think: "make something so unusual or special that people are surprised or impressed and take notice." You can do this with your communication through spontaneity and creativity. Most of us forget most of what we hear quickly simply because we are overwhelmed by messages; therefore, it's your job as a communicator to make it as memorable as possible!

7. Be Flexible

"As a communicator, the first temperature you must set is always your own. You need to warm yourself up before you try to raise the temperature of the room." As you face challenges and work to be flexible when things don't go as expected -- and you can be sure those things will happen -- do what John does:

  • Get over your situation

  • Get after your attitude

  • Get into your adjustments

  • Get on with your mission!

"Do what you must do to create the best experience you can for them in whatever circumstances you face."

This week, answer this question:

  • How can you intentionally read the room and change the temperature to best get your message across the next time you are communicating

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