The Big Question: How should presenters address multitasking?

bigQ

I’m just in time to tackle this month’s Big Question from the Learning Circuits Blog. The question was prompted to some extent by my post Multitasking is now every presenter’s problem, in which I put forward the notion that it wasn’t just webinar presenters who had to deal with their audience multitasking, this was now rife at face-to-face events as well.

There were some great responses to the Big Question – I particularly liked the concept of Binge Thinking suggested by Ken Allen. I’m not going to rework the arguments here, but I would like to clarify my own thoughts and conclusions:

  • Multitasking is an illusion – we are simply not capable of doing it. Those who attempt to carry out another task while a presentation is taking place will miss out to some extent, but then it could be the presentation is not worth concentrating on anyway.
  • The very best presenters will always hold attention.
  • Presenters tackling issues which are highly relevant to the participants will always hold attention.
  • It is a fact of life that some participants will choose not to participate at some events and will stay glued to their toys. I don’t mind this as long as they are polite about it: show some interest when the presenter starts up; look up and smile once in a while; try not to look as if the presenter has somehow intruded on your personal office space. Personally, if I’m paid to speak, I’ll put up with a lack of politeness; if I’m not, I’m quite prepared to walk off. Life’s too short.

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