September 2, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

Have you noticed that our events now have two audiences? Most of the time they get along ok, sometimes there are a few niggles that you have to deal with. Luckily it is fairly simple to keep everyone on track.

The two audiences that you have are: those locked down and those not locked down.

At a few online sessions recently, the host (not in lockdown) asked as a warm up, “So how was everybody’s weekend?” This wasn’t an ideal question as it really highlighted the haves and have nots. From those who were golfing, taking the kids hiking or heading to friends’ places versus those who mowed the lawn… again, played waaaay too much monopoly or ended up walking the dog to the point the dog refused to leave the house.

Hopefully this situation will end soon. Until it does, we need to be aware of this difference and manage it. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

Frame the conversations

When asking for input, take into account the differences and the impact these have. Rather than “how was your weekend” maybe try “for those in lockdown, what new activities have you discovered you can now do at home and for those with more freedom, what new activities have you been doing?”. It doesn’t make the situation any easier but it acknowledges the differences.

Ask better questions

Rather than the usual generic questions you or your speaker may ask, be more specific. Be more focussed on the individual rather than a general question we are used to. Most presenters could afford to spend more time researching the industry, individuals, and the event to ask better, more engaging and more entertaining questions.

Don’t mention home schooling!

Ok, maybe this is a bit extreme, but have you noticed that when you mention home schooling, parents start to twitch? Their eyes roll a little bit and their ears start to steam? So, like all “triggers”, best to stay away from this topic. (While this one is a bit of a joke, you really will be better to stay away!)

Be empathetic

Whether it is lockdown or anything else that could be defined as “group trauma”, having some empathy for a major issue goes a long way. Sometimes acknowledging it, framing the rest of the session with a session outline and then moving into the topic will minimise the impact of that trauma.

Where next?

Hopefully our two audiences will become one in the not-too-distant future. There is also a fair chance that some of our audiences may be locked down again as COVID-19 becomes more endemic than pandemic. Knowing how to approach the two audiences will make your session far more consumable and welcomed by delegates.

Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events globally.