Monday, August 30, 2010

Public Speaking: Involving Your Participants

Interacting with your participants generally increases their learning, holds their
attention, helps you make your points, and possibly provides for new
information to be shared. Technical presentations hold some different challenges
because most of the participants will be writing and taking notes throughout the
program. Interactive processes must enhance the learning process and not just
provide a break or entertainment. There are lots of proven techniques, but the
introduction seems to work best of all and will, as a general rule, get most if not
all of the attendees to participate:

Attendees at a technical session generally have a specific need in mind when
they sign up for the program. By getting them to open up and share their needs,
all the participants stand to benefit from the applications and concerns of
someone else. In other words, there is a sharing of goals, concerns, and needs
which may become as relevant and valuable to the participants as the materials
you present.

Participant introductions serve two useful purposes. First, getting people to
say anything at the beginning of a session gets them involved and is a way to
establish interest in what you will say afterward. And second, if the participants
do not know each other they may find it useful to know who is in the room.
On the other hand, introductions can take up a lot of time. People can insert
many irrelevant comments and take up valuable time talking about themselves.

If your session is part of a larger program, like a conference, introductions may
not fit into the workshop format. The critical consideration in whether to have
participants introduce themselves is time. For instance, if there were 15 people
in the room for a three-hour session, introductions might be helpful. If there are
60 people in the room for a one-hour program, the time constraint would
eliminate the possibility of adequate introductions.

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