As an Environmental Educator it is always important to have “that feel” for the audience. Reading body language is super important. Smiles, stares, eyes following
your every move to see what will come next are all positive signs that your audience is engaged. Eyes wondering, fidgeting in seats, children beginning to act out on one another, (poking, tickling, and teasing), are all signs that you better quicken your pace, become more animated, or change your tactics NOW! Adults who chit-chat, fold arms or spend more times on their cell phones texting are a sure sign that you have lost their attention. Some adults even pull their children from the crowd and move on to teach their kids themselves even if the information they are conveying isn’t always correct. Then you know at this point you blew it! Knowing how to pace yourself in conveying information to reach your subject is super important. Moving on with the next interpretive animal or topic just before you lose your audience is key.
Let’s look at the other end of things….literally! I am a Search and Rescue dog handler. I train hard with my partner, a beautiful little Bassett Hound. We work hard to help each other obtain the same goal, finding a lost subject. Training takes place in all kinds of weather, at all times of the day and with all kinds of road blocks, complications and problems to figure out. Now what does this have to do with interpretation you ask? A ton! If you cannot read body language, you will not obtain your goal – reaching the subject.
During training there are key body signs you look for from your dog to keep you on task just as there are key signs in reading your audience. Does the dog have forward motion? Is the dog’s head down and is he/she focused on task? Is the tail up? Do you hear “snuffling” sounds to indicate that the dog is still engaged in the task? Is the dog’s head up and are the nostrils quivering in the wind trying to find scent? Has the dog’s body relaxed and the tail down? Is the dog ready to roll in whatever pile is left out there? Did the dog’s head turn at an intersection of a trail to indicate that maybe the subject turned in that direction and the scent is there….and then the dog casts in a circle to that same point to continue on the trail? Is your dog too hot? This is indicated by the slowing down of pace and the beginning of heavy panting but the determination is still there to get to the end to get its reward. You need to know when you dog is “dog-tired” so you can take a break and give them water as well as cool them down before continuing to reach your subject. Dogs are so eager to please their handler they will go to the extremes.
Much of this interpretation is done from the tail end of things. I am hooked to my partner by a fifteen foot lead, watching for signs that her body language has changed. I need to know when she has the scent and when she has run of scent and I need to do this quickly as in the end there is a life on the line. I need to keep her on task, I need to move her along and keep her interest peeked in the task, or like the audience, she will begin to wander. If this happens, and I cannot grab her attention and focus quickly all is lost.
Interpretation is key. Some say to “Trust your dog”, the best advice is to “TRUST your TRAINING”. Just as it is in interpretation, standing in front of an audience, “Trust your Training” — know when to move on, when to change up the tactic and when to throw in a twist or two. This will keep your audience engaged. It will help entertain them and it will keep them focused on the task you have at hand….presenting the best information possible in the most engaging way to reach your subject. If you practice your skills you will help the audience succeed in taking away some key points on your topic.
As for me and my partner Clover, her take away is praise, a toy, and at the end a treat. Finding her subject is the main goal and I know we are close by reading her body language. When her tail starts to wag and her back end wiggles, we are very close. Her bounce in her step and the pull on the lead are signs in having success to our goal. Interpreting all her body language is key. Training and practice are important. Whether reading your audience or reading a dog in training, the training is the same, observing body language is key and knowing when to move along so there are no distractions from the goal is paramount. Keep training, keep learning and most importantly keep observing. This will help you succeed in your mission interpreting valuable information to have a successful outcome. – Helena Uber-Wamble