I witnessed a presenter several months ago who seemed not to understand the difference between introverts and extroverts. He had come up with an interactive element to his presentation that involved him putting certain audience members “on the spot” and asking for candid realities regarding morale at their organization.

It was a horrific failure. He got a couple of audience members to speak up, but several times he put the mic in someone’s mug only to get the begrudging mutters of a true introvert. The rest of the audience cringed as they watched the presenter try to wrest extroversion out of these poor souls; no doubt, the introverts themselves were rather miserable.

Interactivity in presentations can be an extremely useful device for both introverts and extroverts, but presenters need to understand the differences between each group to avoid an interactive nightmare. The thing about interactivity is that audience members don’t necessarily have to participate directly to experience the heightened awareness and refreshing change of pace that comes from a break in the presenter’s monologue. Extroverts will naturally want to get out there and get involved; introverts will be content to watch. Thus, interactivity should always be introduced as a volunteer opportunity. There’s no quicker way to ruin your rapport with an audience than to publicly pressure them to be different than they wish to be. So just don’t do it.

Interactivity aside, you can also balance your presentation narrative to appeal to both sides. Action oriented discourse that repeatedly asks questions to the audience is likely to stimulate the extroverts, while long pauses and moments for reflection can be a welcome respite for introverts who prefer to mull the information around a bit.

Of course, audience demographics never boil down to such simple binary traits. Personality is a spectrum of many qualities, as is experience and general mood. Perhaps the biggest lesson to learn is that no audience member is alike. Make sure your presentation appeals to more individuals than those that just share your personality. After all, if you can only speak to your own kind, you’re not doing much persuading in the first place.

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