Never Do For the Audience What They Can Do For Themselves

Posted by Kristin Arnold on June 3, 2011

Bob Pike

Bob Pike, a renowned champion of participant-centered training is often quoted as saying, “Never do for the audience what they can do for themselves.”  As you review your presentation, ask yourself whether you are doing something that an audience member can do just as easily.

When you ask an audience member to do something for you, she feels special.  She morphs into a participant while sending a subliminal signal to the rest of the audience that you are reaching out for help, and they might be more willing to cooperate when you ask them to do something later.  It can be something as simple as asking for help in setting up the room, being a timekeeper or recorder, or a “runner.”

Those are the easy things you can do.  Demonstrations, skits, competitions, and role-plays are more complex interactions that take more thought and deliberate consideration but have HUGE payoff because they are HUGELY memorable.

One of my most impressive interactions is a team-based psychological experiment I first read about in Harvard Management Update.  I wanted to talk about it but thought it would be much more powerful as a demonstration.  So I obtained the original study and developed a scenario with four participants to show the effects of freeloading on a team.  I then practiced SEVERAL times with friends, family, and relative strangers off the street.  Wildly popular.  Wildly memorable.  I didn’t just dream it up during the middle of the presentation.  These things take a bit of forethought.  And patience.  And are well worth the investment of time.

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