Friday, April 1, 2011

A "Third Day" Audience

Recently, we were brought in to consult on a very small element of an event. We produced a game show that took place on the first and third day.

The game show itself went over very well--utilizing both a set of contestants and audience-response keypads so everyone could play along.

At the beginning of the third day, however, we noticed a marked change in the audience. The energy was low. They seemed tired. We asked another producer if the "networking" the night before was the culprit, and they responded--nonplussed--"No, it's just a typical third day audience."

Why does a third day audience get a pass on being as engaged as a first day audience? This was a bit of a shock to us--our "typical" events have the audience leaving MORE energized on the third day than on the first. Instead of a high climax on the first day followed by a slow, downhill denouement to the flight home, our events start out with moderate energy and build and build and build.

Why?

Energy in an event indicates that the audience is still primed for learning. Energy doesn't always equate with rah-rah pom-poms (though it certainly can, if the circumstances are right) but it signals active participation on the part of the audience members. You want an audience engaged all the days of your event--quite simply--so that all the days of messaging will be absorbed and taken back into the field.

How?

Making sure that an audience stays energized for an entire event is no small feat. Most events are designed to work against this goal; big opening followed by a keynote followed by presenter after presenter...a day of workshops...some strategy presentations on the final day...etc. Here are just a few broad-brush ways we keep an event from having a "Typical Third Day Audience":
  • Have points of engagement throughout the event; games, discussions, audience interaction.
  • Put the audience on teams and elicit their commitment to active (not passive) participation.
  • (Along previous lines...) Have the audience develop their own goals and ground rules for the event.
  • Incorporate competition through games and activities.
  • Have an emcee whose purpose goes beyond introducing the next speaker; they can prime content, tie messages together, lead reflections and give the audience "brain breaks" in between speakers.
  • Require all presentations to be engaging, brain-based, interactive, pointed and RELEVANT.
  • Control the environment of the room--this may mean having fewer breakouts and more general session.
  • Avoid information overload. You can start to do this by making sure each critical point/outcome is previewed, presented, reviewed (several times), and practiced. This will naturally limit the amount of information you can include, and will also increase chances of "what's important" being remembered.
  • Change the way information is being presented frequently.
We'll cover some of these individual points in greater detail in future blog entries.

1 comment:

WellToDoLiving said...

Well said! Engaging the audience is certainly the key and you've laid out some well thought plans.