March 24, 2008

Gimme a break, part 2

I haven't talked about this for a while, so forgive me if you remember my post from last year about the same subject. It's worth repeating.

A client of mine recently sat on a committee to organize a conference. There were seven speakers scheduled during the 2 1/2-hour conference; each one spoke for ten to 15 minutes, with the keynote speaker last in line and speaking for an hour.

When audience evaluations came back, one of the most common complaints was that there were no breaks.

People need breaks. Yes, I know you want to cram a lot of stuff into your workshop or training, but let me ask you this: How well can you concentrate when you have to pee?

1. Audience members shouldn't have to get up and miss part of a speaker's presentation.

2. Audience members shouldn't have to stay seated with a full bladder, unable to concentrate because they don't want to miss something.

3. Speakers deserve to have a focused, attentive audience.

Your audience has needs. They need to check their e-mail to see what time they're picking up the kids from swimming practice. They need to stretch their stiff backs and legs. They need to smoke a cigarette. They need to pee. These are facts of life.

Respect your audience and build in breaks at least every 90 minutes, closer together if it makes sense in the program (your speakers are each scheduled for an hour, for example).

Remember: it's all about the audience!

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Good reminder, Lisa.

When I'm teaching a course with either 2 or 2.5 hour modules, I plan a break into the middle of the session. It's right there in my slides so that I can't possibly forget.

Before I made that a habit, I would occasionally forget until someone in the audience would invariably ask "Are we going to have a break today?"

Lisa Braithwaite said...

That's funny, Andrew, that your audience would bring it to your attention. My bladder usually reminds me pretty well. :-)

Anthony Juliano said...

Great tip--and I'd like to add something else. At the start of your presentation, always tell the audience when you'll be taking scheduled breaks. That way they don't get distracted wondering when a break will come, and they can stay focused on you and your message.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Good suggestion, Anthony!

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