Presentations: A quick word on attending presentations

A quick word on attending presentations

In my working life I have made hundreds of presentations, and attended hundreds more.  There’s always lots of advice for giving presentations but not a lot for attending presentations.

From a presenter’s point of view, the behaviour of an audience can make or break a good presentation.  Showing respect and consideration to a presenter will not go unnoticed and will be appreciated.  Remember that the presenter has put in a huge amount of effort to share the information with you and your team, and gone to a lot of trouble to make the presentation interesting, relevant and yes, entertaining.

Here’s what my experience has taught me:

If you are the host:

  • Make sure you book a room. It’s pretty awful to have to follow someone around looking for a vacant room.  And worse, to have to make do with an unsuitable space.
  • Virtually all presenters like to get the feel for the room beforehand. If presenting in a boardroom, book the room at least 15 minutes in advance of the meeting so that the presenter can set up any equipment and be ready when the audience arrives.  Offering a visit to an auditorium before a conference presentation would be a courtesy.
  • Make sure all the equipment needed is there and checked to make sure it’s working.
  • Get tea and coffee served at the beginning.
  • If the presentation is long, ask the presenter to suggest a natural break.

If you are part of the audience of presentations:

  • Be on time. Having people duck in during the presentation is very unsettling.
  • If you have to leave early, tell the presenter.
  • If there are serious time constraints, keep questions to the end. The presenter has little control of the timing if she is constantly interrupted.
  • Keep comments relevant to the presentation and avoid going off on a tangent. The comments may be interesting but if not on point they create waffle and waste time.
  • Please, please, please stay off your cell phone (texting included), tablet or laptop. It’s rude and very off putting for the presenter to see his audience’s attention elsewhere.
  • Avoid whispered asides to your colleagues. It’s very bad manners and if it’s that important, you need to share your comments with the room.

Making presentations is not easy and can be very stressful.  As a member of the audience you can make the presenter feel welcome and less stressed, or unwelcome and very uncomfortable.  What kind of audience do you want to be? 

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