I start the majority of my presentations by making an agreement with my audience. I call it my presenter-attendee agreement.
Why use valuable presentation time for the presenter-attendee agreement?
Most people come to conferences and presentations with an implied agreement that the presentation is about and for the speaker, not the audience. In reality, the focus should be on the audience, the learners.
Audience Presentation Expectations
Some come to my presentations with an unspoken expectation that it’s rude to type or text while in a presentation. I believe that is old-school thinking.
Some come to my presentations thinking that it is impolite to get up and leave the room during my presentation. Again, I believe that was an old-guard expectation that served the speaker, not the audience.
Some believe that the room must be entirely quiet and still for learning to occur. Once again, outdated and unfounded.
In short, I want to manage these and other audience’s expectations. I also want to establish some ground rules for everyone that fosters adults as learners. I want us all to be on the same page.
12 Points For Your Presenter-Attendee Agreement
Here are 12 points that I include in my presenter-attendee agreement. I’ve written them as a script that can be used by you as a presenter or conference organizer. Feel free to take them and make them your own!
1. The Law Of Motion (Two Feet)
If the session’s learning objectives do not match your expectations or at any time you feel the session is not meeting your needs, you have my permission and invitation to use motion and go to another presentation. As an adult, you have the right to control your learning. The session is for you, the learner. It’s not about the presenter.
2. Texting, tweeting, live blogging welcome.
We encourage you to text, tweet, live blog and share your experiences of the event with your friends and social networks. Here are some examples of the good, better, best ways to tweet from a conference.
3. Good vibrations please.
Turn mobile devices to vibrate and please mute the sound from laptops.
4. Be present. Be active. Use respect.
Please be present and actively participate. Your learning depends upon it. If you’re taking photos of others at a conference, use respect before posting online in social media networks. Obviously, if the group posed for a picture, they are giving their unspoken permission to publish. If they are unaware that you took their picture, ask them before you post it.
5. Take care of your own needs.
You’re an adult and we trust you. If you need to use the restroom, don’t wait for a break. Feel free to leave the room. If you need to take a call, please do so in the hallway. We understand that your business is important and continues whether you are in the office or not.
6. Can we talk? You betcha!
Assume all information is free, public and can be shared unless you’re told differently. We’ll give you something to talk about with your friends and colleagues.
7. Follow the Social Media Sharing Golden Rule: “Tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you.”
The same holds true for posting anything in your social networks.
8. Say something good before you say something bad.
We know you may not like everything. Try to focus on the positive first before you start a negative Twitter riot or send a flaming text. If something is said that upsets you, sit on it for a couple minutes before responding. If a few minutes later you still feel the same, post it.
9. The session description and learning objectives are our contracts.
If we break that contract or fail to meet published expectations, tell us.
10. Disagreements and differences are valued and important.
We know that not everyone is going to agree with what is being said. When a presenter says something that you don’t agree with, try to respond with a question asking for clarification. If you know the presenter is sharing outdated information, share your facts. Accuracy is important.
11. Don’t tweet or text anything that you’re not willing to say out loud.
12. We invite and welcome your feedback and opinion.
Your comments, feedback and opinions are important to us. We may agree to disagree with some of your thoughts and we will always do so openly with respect, authenticity and integrity. We also embrace that we’re all still learning. Thank you for allowing us to learn, fail, and take risks along with you
Establishing some meeting ground rules and protocol is a good way to increase attendees’ engagement, reduce negative risks and expand the rewards for everyone.
What do you think about the 21st Century Presenter-Attendee agreement? What other items you would add to the list or what would you take out of the list?
thom singer says
Jeff- I like it. I hate it when people tell the audiences to put their phones away. I want people to tweet and otherwise share on social media when I am the speaker. Besides… if the speaker cannot hold the audiences attention, it is NOT the fault of the audience. If the speaker is not engaging people should walk out or surf the internet.
Esmeralda Gonzalez says
I love this! Each time I have seen you use this in your presentations, I feel that right out of the gate you have made it known that your audience is the most important part of the presentation. And that goes a long way to holding my attention!
PS I’m sharing with our members who are regularly our presenters! Thanks!
Simon Bryan says
Right on… Given that most conferences and training programs are likely to have an abundance of experience, skills, and wide-ranging insight, it would seem dreadfully wasteful that one person (i.e. the presenter) in a room of say 200, should be the only one sharing knowledge or contributing ideas. These elements of the ‘Agreement’ will facilitate a much more productive forum to question and discuss issues, and thus better impart that knowledge. A bit like peeragogy as you’ve blogged before… the term ‘flipping a classroom’ also conjures up the right image. Such an approach will greatly speed up the journey from a forum of ‘Training’ to ‘Learning’ to one of ‘Results Facilitation’.