How to Lose and Audience

April 14, 2012


Second Life AvatarI recently attended a very interesting seminar on harnessing the power of virtual worlds for teaching and learning. I was very excited about attending and learning all I could about the next wave of teaching and training. I drove two hours through terrible rush hour traffic just to attend.

The presentation room was comfortable and very high-tech. The presenter and hosts had the highest credentials. The material was extremely well researched and based upon years of successful implementation. The ice breaker intros went well. All the housekeeping chores like parking validation and paying for lunch went off without a hitch. I met many very friendly and interesting people networking through lunch and was even recruited to apply for a job at a local college!

So why did I and over 25% of the audience leave early?

During the morning session, I was called out and labeled by the presenter, who kept referring to me using my company’s name. The presenter spoke negatively about the product my company produces, as well as speaking negatively about other companies. At each mention, the speaker would look at me and say, “Sorry.” I just smiled graciously, taking the high road.

After lunch, a live demo of the virtual worlds was supposed to give us a feeling of what can be accomplished in this unique setting. The demo had lots of technical problems and no script or stated goals. The presenter sat with her back to the audience to drive the avatar during the demo, so her voice was muffled. The audience immediately tuned out and the presenter had no way of knowing that most of  us were now checking email and whispering back and forth.

The demo was supposed to prepare us for a group activity, and the climax of the day’s seminar.  Too much lecturing and a poorly planned demo that went on too long caused people to  disengage, and conclude they had better things to do with time. So we voted with our feet and left.

If I had the opportunity to write an evaluation of this seminar, I would recommend that next time the presenters:

  • Provide name tags and resist the urge to label people.
  • Don’t put individuals on the spot in front of the group.
  • If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Talking negatively about a product or service you know an audience member provides diminishes your reputation.
  • Constantly keep people informed about what is coming up next with a posted agenda and goals.
  • Build numerous short activities into a day-long seminar.
  • Prepare short demonstrations to support the goals of the presentation.
  • When your technology fails, punt! And then move on –  have a backup plan.
  • Always be in a position to get a read on the audience. One you lose them, you never get them back.

When people decide to give you their time and attention, they are giving you a gift. Accept it gracefully, use it wisely, and always be grateful.

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2 Responses to “How to Lose and Audience”

  1. empoprises said

    I noted that you said “If I had the opportunity to write an evaluation.” Did the presenter not solicit evaluations, or did she wait to solicit them until the end (when people had left)?

    • macneil24 said

      I did not stay around long enough to find out if there was an evaluation for the presenter the material. We were asked to give feedback on the facilities, parking and lunch at lunch time.

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