I thought I’d continue the theme of keeping (or getting) the attention of your group. If you’re like me, you‘re lucky you can whistle loud enough for the dog to hear. And if you’re also like me, you will lose your voice in no time if you try to be louder than your participants.
So, what can you do if you forget to say “In a moment, but not yet” and mayhem ensues? Or you just need to get everyone’s attention at the end of an activity or discussion? Try some of the following attention getters. They will most certainly save your voice. Plus you’ll look cool. I learned these from Michelle Cummings and Chris Cavert – who quite likely could have learned them from someone else.
1. Scream at the top of your lungs. (kidding)
2. “If you can hear my voice…”
Say (in your indoor voice): “If you can hear my voice, clap once [and then clap your hands once]. If you can hear my voice, clap twice [and then clap your hands twice].”
You will usually have enough people join in after the first and second clap that the rest of the talkers will realize something’s going on. By the time you get to “clap three times” they should be with you. If not, you may want to start over with “clap once.” Or try a variation. I saw this one from Chris Cavert in the book The More the Merrier (by Cavert, Evans & Sikes). “If you can hear me, put your hands on your head. If you can hear me, put your hands on your hips. If you can hear me, put you finger on your nose…..not in your nose!” Chris suggests ending with “If you can hear me, place your arms at your sides and listen for the following directions.” It’s sort of Simon Says-esque.
3. Back to Back
Another great one I learned from Michelle is Back to Back, which serves a dual purpose: getting the group’s attention, and at the same time setting them up for paired sharing. I find that this one works best if you first introduce it when you already have everyone’s attention, either at the beginning of your program or activity. Then you can continue to use it throughout the program with the same group.
Explain to the group that when you say “back to back” participants should pair up and stand back to back. (For whatever reason, most people will stop talking when they are no longer looking at each other). I suggest, however, that when you introduce Back to Back the first time, you instruct participants to cease all conversation after you give the command “back to back.” Once you have their attention, you can throw in the “In a moment, but not yet, I will say ‘Face to Face,’ at which time, you will turn to your partner and share 2 things you learned in the last activity.”
4. Hey! Hey What?
This one is a lively prompt-response attention getter. You say (in your outdoor voice) “Hey!” You may get a few people to stop talking and to look at you, but most won’t say “Hey What?” until you prompt them. So say “Hey!” again, and indicate with a “give it back to me” hand motion and maybe lip movements that they should ask “Hey What?” It may take 2 or 3 times, but they’ll get it. Once you have the entire group’s attention (you’ll know because it will be silent following their “Hey What?”), you say something like “Let’s all line up in a circle to get ready for the next activity.”
5. The Silent Treatment
What if you don’t need to get everyone’s attention? You know what I mean; everyone’s listening except one or two chatterers on the side lines. I call them the Side-Talkers. For those situations, I often use the Silent Treatment. What I mean is, I just stop talking (mid-sentence seems to be most effective) and look at them. Most of the other participants will look at them, too. Some will even “shoosh” them. The Side Talkers will eventually catch on, look my way, and stop talking. I usually say something like, “I know, there is so much to discuss! I just have a couple more things that I need everyone to hear, and then we will…..” It’s important not to be “mad” at them or cause them too much embarrassment (just enough so they get it).
6. Using Props as Attention Getters
There are many ways to use props as attention getters, too. Chimes, cowbells, bike horns, slide whistles, and clickers are all effective. Recorded music works too.
NOTE: Whatever attention getters you decide to use, just be careful not to over-do it. Your participants may tire of the repetition and you don’t want your techniques to lose their effect. Mix it up. Have fun. Create your own.
Written by Linda Williams
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