February 8, 2011

Can audience introductions work?



Here's an example of something that shouldn't have worked in an hour-long presentation, but it did.

The topic was connecting regional food buyers with sellers, and the speaker was unveiling and demoing a site that will facilitate this process.

At the beginning of the presentation, the speaker asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves. My first thought was that, in a room of 25 people, this would take way too long and impede the progress of the presentation.

Fortunately, the rambling self-introductions that you typically find when a group gives impromptu intros did not surface. But what was most interesting was when two women sitting next to each other discovered that they were working on compatible projects and exchanged information.

And I realized that, because this seminar was about facilitating connections, it made perfect sense for the food industry audience to know who was in the room.

If you decide to do something like this during a presentation, take some precautions:

1. Figure out in advance how much time you need for the presentation and how much time you're willing to give for introductions. Make sure you have a healthy time cushion so you are able to accomplish both.

2. Be willing to politely interrupt people who are going on too long with their introductions in order to have time for everyone to speak. This group was remarkably concise, but that is not always the case.

Luckily, the speaker didn't encounter any problems and the presentation and introductions went smoothly. As long as you are prepared and willing to take charge of your time, and it's relevant to your situation and topic, audience introductions can work.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Greg Friese said...

My top presentation goal is to honor my audience's time, knowledge, and experience. If I ask the audience for introductions there needs to be a purpose for the overall presentation. I usually give a few specific questions to answer. I have also used simple polling - raise of hands - to learn about my audience. Finally, I also like to work the room before the presentation so I can start using people's names during the introduction phase.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I'm with you there, Greg. There are a lot of ways to learn about the audience; it would be great if we always had time for introductions, but unfortunately, it's not usually fitting in terms of time or topic.

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