Please join me in thanking the last speaker. I am totally serious here, please DO join me and thank the speakers who perform in virtual arenas. The cultural norm of an audience to applaud and congratulate a speaker at a live event appears to have been lost in cyber-space and now presenters finish to…silence. This is terrible for lots of reasons and must change for the benefit of both the speaker and the audience. Please join me and return to thanking speakers.
A live presentation is a significant undertaking for a presenter no matter whether that is a keynote speech to thousands, a major scientific meeting or even a local teaching session. There is a significant amount of preparation, time and emotional challenge in bringing the piece to its consumation. Most of that is unseen and unknown but the successful conclusion of the piece itself is recognised by the audience and rewarded.
The reward for a presentation is attention, emotional connection and gratitude. The is communally expressed at the end of the piece usually by applause; the strength, rate, and duration of this applause often perceived as a marker of quality. Remember the rapturous applause at the end of a rock concert (do we even remember concerts??) and compare to the polite and limited ripple of applause for a less than stellar support group. Now consider the last online presentation you watched.
I appreciate that all microphones except the speaker must be muted during a presentation; we have all lived through the gratuitous feedback loops, noisy children and embarrassing soto voce comments. It is completely unacceptable that presenters finish their online delivery to complete silence from the audience. The challenge of delivering to an unresponsive green dot is enough in itself but to have nothing in return even at the end of a presentation must change. My request is that you would please join me in thanking the last speaker. All we need to do is turn our audio back on and do what we did in real life.
Please join me in thanking Ross for posting this… I have talked with innumerable colleagues over the past year who bemoan the challenges of delivering to a screen. Our love of presenting and educating is in such a significant way intertwined with audience interaction, whether it be visible or audible – questions, concerns, even counterarguments! It’s a brave new world, so to speak and we are all doing our best to adjust. Your words are so pertinent. I would add that it becomes even more important to have question and answer time at the end of the talk, and that the audience makes a concerted effort to engage. Education is a two way street – the learner has a responsibility to engage and interact, if for no other reason than to show appreciation for the work put into the talk by the speaker.
You really nailed something here. The lack of audience interaction has been very tough for me this past year. Wandering the audience in a ballroom… designing seating and activities for small groups… head nods and follow-up questions… these were all my superpowers developed over years of trial and lots of errors. Now it is me staring at myself or my slides, urging audience questions and waiting for someone to unmute, no idea how the talk is landing with the 90% camera off audiences. Disappointing, more than frustrating. And your post identifies another lack of previously important feedback.. the applause at the end, the questions from those who stay afterwards to chat, the debrief with conference planners in the audience… now I just thanks for having me, turn off Zoom, and go walk the dog. (Lots of value in that, too.l)