Monday, November 19, 2012

Could you come up on stage, please?

Audience participation is not to everyone's taste. Some members of your audience (including me) will get up and look for the exit if you try to get them involved in a group exercise, such as "turn round and tell the person next to you how good they look". Probably because I cringe at the thought of mass participation, I rarely include it in my presentations. 

However, I do sometimes involve one or two audience members in simple exercises to make a strong point. If you want to get someone on stage, asking for a volunteer does not always work. Of course, you can ask someone in advance, or find a friend or colleague to work with. I prefer to ask someone I don't already know, because I think it makes the point more effectively. 

Here's a technique I use. To begin with, I ask the audience for a show of hands on two or three topics. I then ask if anyone has a question, or an experience they would like to relate. There are always several people that are happy to engage in dialogue, providing the opportunity to build a relationship. When I need a "volunteer", I return to one of the people I spoke to earlier, and ask them if they could help me out for a minute or two. They always say yes. 

One more thing - never humiliate or patronise (as if you would). You're not a stand-up comedian (OK, if you are, look away for a minute). Be respectful and polite. And give them a reward for taking part - such as your latest DVD (yes, it's an advertising opportunity too).

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