I recently had the great pleasure of observing a presentation by Andy Jorgensen, Associate Professor in the University of Toledo’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The talk was titled “Climate Change Disruption: How Do We Know? What Can We Do?”
While I do have an abiding interest in the topic (having worked on the Clean Air Act amendments issue in the early 1990s), Dr. Jorgensen’s presentation was fascinating not just for its content, but for his delivery. His friendly, avuncular presence put the audience at ease and transformed what could have been an hour of solid doom and gloom into one of education and action.
The good professor also encouraged lots of direct audience participation by using electronic clickers to solicit opinions. He was able to tabulate results immediately, a great means of instant feedback. Not only did he share the day’s results, he also compared them to readings of past audiences.
Granted, the clicker is not appropriate for all situations. And it does take some time to gain a facility with posting results right away without interrupting the flow of the presentation. The clicker system — in experienced hands and in the right format — can be a nice way of keeping listeners engaged and on their toes.
Good speakers leave their audiences with a call to action or a series of next steps. Jorgensen did just that, with a clicker question asking audience members about their commitment to energy savings. This type of modest peer pressure actually might work.
Have you had experience with instant audience polling, either as a presenter or audience member? If so, what other fine points do you have to offer?