Friday, January 28, 2011

"During a live presentation, should the presenter use the actual names of the prospects in the room?" [This question comes from a colleague who asked me to post it…]

“I often give my presentations over the phone. I am able to recognize at least some of the voices in the room and associate them with their names (and usually, their roles). I do something very similar when I’m in person, only then I write the names on my paper in the seating order they are in around the table.

In my presentations, I will try to use this knowledge. When I get a question, I might start the response with something like “That’s a great question, Tom”. Or if I know from a prior call, that Sally’s group is struggling with a particular problem, when I show how our solution addresses that problem, I might call out to Sally and say something like “Sally, would something like this be of value to your team?” Sometimes I might use a name in a more generic way, such as “In this case, we’ll pass it on to Bill and Jean for the final approval”. My thinking is that all of this makes the presentation more personable, and helps “re-nengage” people to the presentation that might have been slowly drifting away into their Blackberries.

The technique has seemed to work well for me, or, at least, it has never blatantly backfired on me. However, I’m getting some feedback now from others on our team that this is not a “best practice” for presenters. They say that it is risky, you could offend or embarrass someone by calling out them personally amongst a group of their peers’/bosses. They say that it sounds unprofessional, a bit too smarmy, and that cheapens the professionalism that we want to convey. They say, at the end of the day, that it just isn’t necessary. You can address questions to the entire group, why pigeonhole it?”

Comments – recommendations?

1 comment:

John Whitehead said...

I disagree with your team and think that using names in a presentation is a great tool to keep them engaged.
When you use a persons name, you have engaged them in the conversation and, according to the professionals, engage their brain.

The only caution is to use their name correctly. While on a break during a recent presentation I was giving, I recieved a text from a friend of mine named Butch. When I started back into my presentation, I recieved a question from the host (named Bruce). I looked at him and said, "Well Butch, i believe..." The entire room cracked up and I quickly realized my mistake.
Later in the day, his employees created a name plate with his new name, "Butch". ugh!!
After the presentation, I apologized. Luckily he was a gracious host! :)