Live probing – Checking the Audience’s Analogue Response to Your Smile

A presenter’s smile is the best probe signal to use to assess the good functioning order of the audience – so long as the probe is not faulty!

Apart from TDD, what other techniques have people invented to ensure that things are functioning well? Roll drum announcing – The Digital Signature.

It is a method invented by Gary Gordon from HP in 1976 to probe/check within seconds whether a complex electronic circuit is working fine. Great technique with an equivalent in the more analogue world of presentations.

How do you rapidly test the good working order of a circuit board made of many digital circuits sending billions of ones and zeroes to one another at the dizzying pace set by a quartz heart beating a billion times a second? The answer is in US Patent 3976864 – Apparatus and method for testing digital circuits. A probe injects a known series of ones and zeros into the circuit under test, and another probe simultaneously captures the resulting output of ones and zeros somewhere else in the circuit. For a given input on an IC pin, the output on another IC pin somewhere else in the working circuit should always be the same. If it differs, the circuit is faulty. Simple!

A presentation may not be digital, but the attention level is. Each member in the audience is tuning on or off at any point in time. Either people are with you and they keep up with your words and slides, or 1) they have drifted away (high impedance state floating somewhere between one and zero), 2) they find themselves out of sync with what you say (clock problem), or 3) they have plainly disconnected their neuronal circuits and your signal is going straight to ground.

How does one test the good functioning order of an audience?

Well, you have to inject into the circuit a known signal that triggers a known behavior. If the signal does not get the expected result, then either the probing signal is defective (you) or the circuit  is (in our case the audience).  Since the audience can only be faulty is the presenter is in the wrong room, a non responsive audience must be attributed to a defective probe. So what kind of probing signal are we using for our test?

Let’s start with your opening ice-melting smile – the one that precedes your very first word. Did the audience respond by returning your smile or at least demonstrate some level of relaxation? Nope? Was your smile genuine, coming from the heart ? You must have a good signal to inject into the circuit to test it; The resulting signature is as reliable as the signal used to create it. An audience of scientists does not respond to a “commercial” smile.

All right, let’s try smiling again. Great smile, but the audience is still not responding. Why? You were smiling at your screen or at your shoes! They never return smiles, however bright and shining they may be. You must have eye contact with the audience when you smile and you must be in full light for everyone to see you.

Let’s try smiling one more time, shall we? Great smile, and looking straight at the audience. What!!!! Your smile vanished so fast that people are wondering whether your smile was for them or whether it was the kind of smile babies give before an all-too-describable smell hits the olfactory organs in their surroundings!  Give it time to bloom – your smile, that is. And give the audience time to return your smile. It is a thrilling moment because you are really happy to be chosen by an audience eager to hear what you have to say.

And now for the heart-winning smile. Go ahead. Send the smile signal that will have the audience return your smile. I see some people are smiling back. Congratulation. Your now-positive audience has lost its neutrality. You have people’s undivided attention. They passed the smile test.

By Jean-luc lebrun

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.

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