Shortly after I moved to Asia I attended an evening presentation when something happened which has stuck with me ever since. The session was due to start at 6.30pm, and to last for around two hours, including questions. Around 45 minutes into the presentation, large sections of the audience began to rise and to head for the exits. This wasn't a mass protest, and those people seemed genuinely engaged prior to their leaving. So why, suddenly, was the best part of half the audience heading for the doors?
These individuals were leaving so they could break their fast as part of their Ramadan religious period. So perhaps a two hour evening presentation taking those individuals away from their family commitments and their important breaking of the fast, was not the best planning! This was a timing error on behalf of the organisers, and demonstrates an important point that when is not only for you, but also for the audience.
Presenting during any sort of religious, national, cultural or other festival or holiday period, or even during an ongoing crisis or tragedy, can pose serious challenges. In general these are best avoided but this is not always practicable. If you do end up in the position of delivering a session during a time like this, it is always a good idea to politely acknowledge the event(s), and always bear in mind others in the room may have something else on their mind. You may also try to include elements of the event in your presentation, if it is something that could be done with ease and without causing offence.
Everyone has been in the position of having to attend a session at the end of a long week, say a Friday afternoon after five days on the grind. The audience at this session may behave completely differently to those on a Tuesday morning feeling fresh and engaged. They may be in casual attire and so have a more laid back mindset. They may be ready to head home and welcome the weekend and mentally not really be in attendance. There is every chance a particularly tired individual may even spend some time inspecting the inside of their eyelids, as happens to all of us from time to time! If you are presenting to children in the afternoon who have been at school since 7am, do not expect them to be bundles of energy! Accept that some will be a little grizzly and looking forward to heading off, so try to make the session fun and lively to engage all of them, but be mindful of the audience needs as well as your own.
From the individual planning perspective, ‘when’ can be a trifling proposition at times. Sessions which begin very early or end very late can cause issues with regards to travel, ensuring you can physically be in attendance at the right time. You may need to plan your route, look at options for any members of the household you may leave who need care, or speak to someone to assist with dropping the kids off at school. The timing may conflict with another engagement or personal appointment you have, or your normal schedule. If you are heading to a heavy traffic area you may need to give extra room for hold-ups, or for security screening at some point along your journey. And of course, there is also the additional time needed when you get there in case of any unexpected hiccups, often caused by the wonderful technology we all love to utilize not working for some reason!
This is the fourth post in a weekly series looking at some ideas around presenting and preparation. All thoughts are the personal views of the author. Follow me on Twitter @s_gibbins