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The 7 main listener profiles every trainer should know well


One of the key skills that each successful trainer should master is being able to accurately read the receptivity of his/her audience. Remember the old saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? Similarly, you can seat participants in the training room, but you can’t make them listen.

As a trainer you should expect your audience to have diverse levels of interest and attention. If you can proactively recognize the different listener profiles, you can more successfully make adjustments on the fly to ensure they are giving you their undivided attention.

1- “Get to the point ma’am.” This is the get to it, no-nonsense person who wants just the facts. This is the kind of person who wants specifics and cannot tolerate long ramblings. He/she wants to know how a problem can be fixed. Expect this person to hammer you with a barrage of tough questions just to get you to get to the point.

2- “Please like me.” This is the person with the amiable personality type who always seeks approval from others and is very much concerned with “warm, fuzzy feelings.” This person usually will not retain much of what you say because he/she is constantly anxious about the impression he/she is making. Try to acknowledge their presence and their contribution early on and give them reassurance that “you like them” because this is what they seek in order to focus and pay attention.

3- “Mr./Mrs. Hot shot.” This is the kind of listener who looks for power and assertiveness signals to determine how much respect and attention to pay you. This person constantly looks for power signs in your body language, tone, status and credentials. He/she will only listen and pay attention if you look and sound good.

4- “Give me a break.” Your listeners have different attention span and tolerance levels. Some listeners have a short attention span and get overloaded very easily and tune out completely. This becomes very clear through their body language that communicates this very clearly. To prevent this overload and tune out, give your audience a break every 20 or 30 minutes so they can stretch and move around.

5- “Can you beat this?” This is the person who comes to the training room with his/her own agenda and listens only to his/her favorite channel WIIFM (What’s in it for me). This person usually has a very competitive personality and can’t wait till you finish to add his/her two cents or asks a tough question to put you to the test. If possible, try to use break times to learn more about this person’s personal agenda to respond to their WIIFM question.

6- “The Yawner.” One or two yawns is normal. Some people may not have had enough sleep the previous night however every trainer knows that a lot of yawns and fidgeting among the audience means he/she is in trouble and need to switch gears. Be ready to inject a quick activity or energizer, tell a funny story; provide an in-place, stand-up, stretch break or divide your class into groups and have them work or a pertinent question or problem.

7- “Gotcha” These are the types that are looking for ways to prove you wrong. They are listening for something inconsistent, biased, offensive or factually incorrect so carefully think through what you are saying and be careful not to provide an opportunity to those fault-finders extraordinaire.

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