Saturday, June 24, 2023

Advanced On-stage Techniques - Small Prizes Make the Scene Interesting


When most people take the stage, they tend to stick to unidirectional explanations - they talk from the podium while the audience listens. Although this approach is formal, it can also be somewhat mundane. Many people often ask me privately: How can we interact more with the audience? How can we engage them, rather than performing a one-man show? My first suggestion is: prepare some small prizes!

Unless you've seen it firsthand, it's hard to imagine senior executives from listed companies enthusiastically participating in course activities just to win a small gift. Nor can you easily believe that in a lecture with over a hundred attendees, more than half would raise their hands eager to speak, all for the sake of winning a box of building blocks. With the catalyst of small prizes, the atmosphere on the scene can quickly transform. Instead of urging participation from the stage, it often becomes a matter of asking everyone to calm down and not raise their hands too quickly! This small reward mechanism is effective in both courses and speeches, and if carefully planned, it can also be extremely effective when the presentation topic is more relaxed. Let me share with you a few examples:

Example 1

Danny regularly conducts internal briefings on work safety at his company to instill a sense of safety consciousness among his colleagues during their daily tasks. However, the subject matter can be somewhat dry, leading to many a yawn and lack of enthusiasm among the audience. Eventually, Danny secured a budget from the company to purchase some chocolates as prizes for a Q&A session during each presentation. Sure enough, at the next briefing, there was a marked increase in the willingness of the attendees to raise their hands, leading to higher interactivity and making the presentation far more interesting!

Example 2

Michelle, on the other hand, is an in-house lecturer for a department store group and regularly conducts training for the counter staff. Given the hectic work schedules, attendees often find it hard to concentrate during the classes, and some even zone out. After taking our advice, Michelle prepared small notepads as prizes and incorporated interactive discussions and drills into her sessions. The best performing groups were then selected by vote at the end and rewarded with small prizes. She found that the atmosphere in the class improved greatly. Not everyone was necessarily motivated by the prizes themselves - many found the whole experience fun and engaging, leading to a higher level of participation. This small investment brought about significant changes, which Michelle found to be very beneficial!

Through these two examples, we can see how appropriate reward systems can influence the interactive atmosphere at the scene. Of course, a good reward system also requires preplanning and doesn't simply involve offering prizes. Let's explore how to design an effective reward system to elevate the overall atmosphere on site:

 1. Announce tangible prizes in advance

Prizes don't have to be grand, but it's better if they're tangible and visible. Examples can be biscuits, chocolates, notebooks, keychains, Lego blocks, small toys, or even books, T-shirts, or makeup bags as gifts. The prize doesn't need to be extravagant; it primarily serves as a tangible goal for the participants to strive for. If possible, announce the prize at the beginning to attract and motivate active participation from the audience. The truth is, participants are not just driven by the reward itself, but also find the whole process fun and compelling, which gives them a reason to join in the interactive session. This is the essence of a reward system!

2. System design - immediate or cumulative rewards

Immediate rewards are straightforward - for instance, you can give a prize as soon as someone raises their hand to answer a question. Cumulative rewards, on the other hand, involve giving a point card or a poker card instead of an instant prize, and the prizes are awarded at the end based on the accumulated points. Both methods work as long as they are planned in advance.

3. There are no wrong answers

The focus should be on the process of interaction, not the correctness of the answers. Therefore, it's crucial to stress that there are no wrong answers! As long as the participants engage in the interaction, the speaker should offer verbal praise or tangible rewards. It's also recommended to use the aforementioned cumulative method or group cumulative scoring method, where rewards are given at the end. This approach will further stimulate enthusiastic participation in discussions.

Once, I was invited to a proposal presentation at a multinational corporation in Europe, where I immediately sensed a somewhat unfriendly atmosphere upon entering. It turned out that the attendees were the executives I was to teach in the future. They sat with arms crossed, ready to scrutinize my presentation and grill me with questions. However, as soon as I got on stage, I told everyone that I wasn't there to present but to demonstrate what my future teaching would look like. I had prepared some questions for everyone to discuss and answer, as well as some small prizes for the best responses. While everyone was still a bit taken aback (thinking they were there to listen to a presentation, not start a formal class!!), I started posing the first question, and people began to answer, with the first prize going out! Then came a slightly harder question, followed by a group discussion question... Amid the hustle and bustle, with everyone fully engaged, I noticed the HR person in charge of training planning giving me a thumbs-up, with a smile that couldn't be wiped off her face...

The more professional, or even dull, the topic, the more crucial it is to incorporate interactive elements to lift the solemn atmosphere. Appropriate reward systems are a great way to encourage audience participation. Of course, if everyone is used to a one-way lecture, incorporating interactivity and reward planning will require some practice. However, once you've tried this approach a few times, you'll discover the results far exceed your expectations! Remember to come back and share your experiences with me when the time comes!


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