When is this until?

The last town hall meeting I was invited to started with a basic incentive: yes, there was food. It was nicely laid out on a central table: guests looked at it, eagerly and somewhat impatiently, yet quietly, waiting for the main presenter to unfold the agenda. Some lined up, some went around to reach what they could: all finally went to a corner to catch up with friends and other known faces. Twenty minutes later, the presenter introduced us to something off-topic, or shall I say “not on the agenda”. Ok, so, what was with announcing an agenda again?

The first part of the presentation called for some interaction, in response to recent changes that were happening within my client’s organisation. The rebranding of the unit, given how much exposure it had, was somewhat of importance: going from “Supply Chain” to “Sourcing” looked like a challenge to the customers. Such as the Lake District in the unwanted recommendation of a name change (minus the short sale), the message delivered to the main actors of that very department seemed to muddle through their minds (or so their faces were expressive enough to think so). Apart from updating the signature at the bottom of their future email correspondences, was it going to be a big deal for them?

The next speaker started with another change in procedure, while the digestion process was kicking in as well. Tough position for either participant: keep the audience engaged for one, fighting that end-of-week feel of heavy eyelids for the others. The monotonous voice of that speaker got me thinking, and fighting to remain concentrated. From wondering how relevant it was perceived by the audience, to wandering my eyes around the room, I found many attendants randomly checking for various updates on their smartphones (and not just for the time), or changing postures to find some comfort and extend their attention span. Need I say that it was a moderate failure on both counts?

Captivating the audience and keeping it so demands some skills: entertaining, intriguing, even divisive like the Iron Lady had the secret. Not everyone can handle being on stage and not being boring… Listening to monologues can be fascinating when they are written artfully and spoken for, and of, by performers who show confidence and belief in what they are offering. Maybe it is an art, after all. And the science would be for the presenter’s manager to guide, and sometimes rescue, her/him. Of course, that becomes a delicate situation when they are the same person. An audience is usually hungry for thoughts and information: its hunger noticeably shifts on a Friday afternoon. Food for thoughts for the next department session?

Photo credit © Olivier Borgognon Photography – “Day 80/365 – The watch”