Connecting with a hearing impaired audience can be difficult. If you’re not signing, your audience is focused on the interpreter instead of on you, and it can be hard to judge whether or not your audience is following along, or bored. If you’re not feeling connected to them, they are definitely going to notice-and then they aren’t going to be feeling connected to you!
When you’re trying to connect with a hearing impaired audience, it’s important to think outside of the box. Even if it goes against their nature, hearing impaired audience members must be visual learners. It doesn’t matter to them how many times you’ve practiced your speech to get the subtle nuances in your presentation just right, because they will never hear them. If their eyes are on you at all, they’re going to be focusing on your body language to give them cues about the nuances of the points that you’re making. However, because there’s usually a delay in the time that you say something and the time that the interpreter signs it, your body language doesn’t always match up to what they’re seeing from the interpreter.
A good way to help you connect with the hearing impaired, while still keeping everything on track, is to use a PowerPoint presentation. With a PowerPoint presentation and a good overhead projector screen, you can keep your audience’s attention on you, because you’re providing more of the visual stimulation that they need. Of course, you’ll still need an interpreter, but if you put your PowerPoint presentation together just right, you’ll be able to rely more on it, than on the interpreter, to get your points across.
To use PowerPoint for a hearing impaired audience, it’s important to make sure that the projector screen is going to meet your needs. The larger your audience, the larger the screen will need to be. If you’re presenting to a group of 300, a display the size of the television in your bedroom just won’t cut it!
You’ll need to make sure that the decks you put together for your presentation have a good mix of images and text. Make your font large, so that even those in the back of the room can see them without difficulty. Use or create images that reflect your subject matter and create emotion. Make sure that they tie in to what you’re going to be saying at the time, and the text that’s on the screen.
Finally, you’ll need to rehearse. You’ll want your timing to be spot on, because the interpreter is going to be slightly delayed. What you’re saying needs to match the images and text in your PowerPoint deck, and you need to plan to pause once in awhile to let the interpreter catch up. There’s nothing that will lose your audience’s attention faster than long presentations where the interpreter is minutes behind the presenter. Remember that your audience is having to juggle between you and the interpreter, so give them a few seconds to react.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to put together an engaging presentation that keeps your hearing impaired audience engaged.