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Captivating every audience.

Last week I was asked to read a book to all the kids at my sons daycare because of Children's Book Week. I decided to bring one of my favorite books on all the things you can do with cardboard boxes. They might even learn something, I thought.

Full of excitement I sat down in front of the group of two year old's until I felt a butterfly in my stomach. The butterfly then quickly turned into a knot and seconds later I concluded with a shock: I AM NERVOUS! 
I immediately had a firm inner talk, telling myself that it was ridiculous to be nervous and that a group of 2 year old's would be peanuts in comparison to the groups I usually face as a corporate trainer. But I still felt a bit unsure.
You see, for every person who loves group facilitating the ultimate quest is always to unlock the secrets of engagement. How do we engage others, and then keep them in that state? I'm confident in dealing with adults but suddenly engaging 15 toddlers felt like a herculean task. 
So I decided to approach it the same way as I do in all my training workshops. 
These are my 4 golden rules:  
* Stimulate curiosity. I think that we, as trainers, are so eager to get to the answers that we don't spend sufficient time to developing the question. But it’s the question that piques both adults and toddlers interest. Being told an answer doesn’t do anything. Take the information you want your audience to know by the end and frame a question that will direct your listeners toward that answer. 
*Introduce change and surprise. Both adults and toddlers quickly become habituated to the status quo. When something in our environment shifts, however, we start paying attention again. So tell a joke, show a picture or address your topic in a different way.
*Relevance and concreteness. Toddlers and adults can’t handle too much abstraction. Bring your ideas down to earth by explaining how they connect to your listeners’ lives, and by embedding sensory details — what things look, sound, feel and taste like — into your account.
* Tell stories. Researchers who study human cognition say that stories are “psychologically privileged” — that is, our minds treat them differently than other kinds of information. We understand them better, remember them more accurately, and we find them more engaging to listen to in the first place. When planning your presentation, think about how to capture your ideas in a narrative.

So facing my 2 year old audience, I took a deep breath and started by asking what they thought you can actually make out of boxes. Then halfway through the story I decided to grab a real cardboard box from the kitchen and put in on my head. Giggling toddlers galore.  I ended the story with telling them that I once made an awesome puppetry out of a cardboard box. 
And what do you know? 
The loud, little devils turned into engaged, little angels, listening to a story told by a complete stranger about all the things they could do with cardboard boxes.
Hopefully you can use these strategies too during your presentations or training workshops, so you won’t need to worry if your listeners are fully engaged.

Whether they are 2 or 42 years old. ;)

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