Effective communication starts with adjusting your technique for your audience.
Influencing others always begins with understanding them.
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’re neither hostile nor positive.
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.
Learning how to deal with all kinds of audiences is covered in our assertiveness training courses!
7 Ways To Deal With A Neutral Audience
Neutral audiences don’t have a prior interest in your topic. It is up to you to spark their interest:
1. Explain the benefits
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.
2. Why should they listen to you?
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.
3. Make your problem their problem
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.
4. Ask for advice
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:
- “I need your help.”
- “What is your opinion?”
- “What do you think?”
- “How would you do this?”
- “Do you have any ideas?”
5. Ask questions
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.
6. Tell stories
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:
- Create involvement
- Simplify difficult ideas
- Build interest
- Trigger emotions
7. Find An Acquaintance In Common
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.
3 Mistakes To Avoid When Dealing With A Neutral Audience
Let’s have a quick look at three mistakes that people can often make with a neutral audience.
1. Lacking facts and statistics
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.
2. Using complex arguments
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.
3. Pushing too hard
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 and presenting 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.
For more on communication, check out our communication statistics here!
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