After yesterday’s post on tips for presenters, it’s only fair for me to supply a list for those sitting out in the audience. While most of these fall into common sense for many people, everybody is different, and some people may need to be reminded occasionally.
1. Have High Expectations Of The Content
I am keeping the presentations skills of the individual(s) out of the equation, some of the better sessions I’ve witnessed from a content perspective haven’t been by people with a slick, polished delivery style. You have given up your time, you may have paid to attend, you may have forsaken income opportunities to sit in the audience, so make sure you are
2. Gain A Basic Knowledge Of The Topic Beforehand
This serves two purposes. Firstly it allows you to keep up with terminology and concepts much more easily, allowing you to get much more out of the content that is delivered, and maybe even ask some good questions that others will appreciate. Secondly, it means that during the question and answer period, valuable time isn’t taken up explaining what a quick look at the spiel on the product’s web page would reveal.
3. Don’t Come To A Presentation With An Axe To Grind
Where do I start with this one… regardless of what you think of the product, the company, a recent experience you may have had, this is most likely not going to be the right forum for you to stand up and air your grievances publicly. You should be attending the session only because you have an interest in the topic that is being discussed, and to listen to what the presenter has to say.
If you do decide that this is going to be your chance to stand up and be noticed, don’t expect to win any friends in the audience or from the presenter. If you get upset that you get cut off without the opportunity to complete your rant, imagine that you are another audience member wondering why the hell someone is wasting the time of everybody else in the room.
4. Be Respectful That There Are Other People In The Room, Not Just You
This isn’t just related to point 3 above, but also in terms of holding back questions until the appropriate time, usually the designated Q&A time that should be allocated. If the presenter invites questions during the main part of the session, be wary that not everybody wants to hear all of your questions which may be important to you, but not necessarily to everyone else. Hold some of them for the Q&A so that the presenter can deliver the content in full.
5. Ask Questions During The Q&A Time, Not After The Session Completes
The main reason I suggest this is that it could be a question that everyone benefits from, so an answer shared amongst a room full of people is going to have a greater impact. Secondly, the presenter may need to get off the stage in order to allow the next presenter to get their session ready. Thirdly, the presenter may really need to go to the bathroom.
6. Don’t Expect The Presenter To Break Any Non Disclosure Agreements Or Make New Announcements
Ten years ago, accidentally letting some new information slip during a presentation wouldn’t have spelled the end of the world. Today though, it’s a very different story, and like many others a huge degree of caution has entered into the world of public speaking. People can be reprimanded before they finish the presentation due to the speed that information travels now.
If you are attending a session expecting some of this information, only be disappointed if it is called out in the session description that you will have this information revealed. The flow of new product information is tightly controlled, and the chances are you should be reading about it in an official announcement from the company or it’s representatives, not at a presentation that you may be choosing to attend.
7. Don’t Expect The Presenter To Be A Subject Matter Expert On Areas You Consider Related To The Topic
In many organizations you will find that individuals work in silos, so they probably aren’t going to be intimately aware, or even vaguely aware, of what occurs outside of their sphere of influence. What may seem like a simple question to you could be completely alien to them. If a question comes up that you think you can assist in answering, wait until the Q&A period at the end of the session and offer your assistance.
8. Don’t Try To One Up The Presenter
There are going to be situations where you may know more about particular aspects of what is being discussed and want to contribute. Resist the temptation to declare yourself an authority on that topic, and again, wait until the Q&A period to provide some friendly and helpful input.
9. Don’t Just Put Your Phone On Silent, Don’t Answer It During The Presentation
Guess what? If you are sitting in a room facing someone while you are talking on the phone, they are going to hear you. As is everyone sitting around you. We have to listen to enough conversations in other public spaces, give people a break during presentations.
10. Be Constructive In Your Feedback
Writing “This sucks” or “I use competitor x’s product, this was a waste of time” is not constructive feedback. Accusing someone of being a muppet without explaining what a muppet is, however can be equally confusing and amusing to those who get to read the comments.