18 August 2006

Working with an audience

At one time I worked for a small American market research firm that produced proprietary and multi-client studies in the chemicals industry. As a new boy I had to soak up training to be effective on the job and my manager told me "when you get your first question, cut them off at the knees"!

On reflection, there is a grain of truth there - people in the audience may not have the same grasp of the material as the presenter and the response to the question is an opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of expertise. It isn't, however, a recipe for the long term, it is a tactic which is more about winning the battle than winning the war. For presentations where it is important to maintain a long-term relationship with participants then I would always recommend a less aggressive approach, one which invites more of a dialogue with the questioner or other members of the audience. That inclusiveness and making them feel good about what they know is more likely to cement relationships.

These thoughts were prompted by a quick re-acquaintance with "Getting to Yes" over the week-end, authored by Fisher, Ury and Patton from Harvard.

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