Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unmistakable metric...

...but what did it measure?

We had a Town Hall the other day, and the presenters were a mixture of old and new faces. And they were slick. About a half-dozen spoke* during the course of the presentation, and they rarely stumbled over a bullet point or lost the thread of their story. The packed room listened respectfully and quietly.

And then, one of the familiar faces had his turn. He happens to be extremely passionate about his role. Or, maybe he’s just a nervous speaker. He panted. He sweated. He kept asking the communication team to go back to the previous slide – he had another thought to share. He talked fast but still couldn’t get it all out, and seemed to rush to the finish line of his portion of the program. When he handed it off to the next speaker and collapsed into his chair, the audience of employees burst into spontaneous applause, the only time it happened during the meeting.

There’s a metric for you.

But did it measure agreement with his point of view? I’d say that was incidental. I think people were mostly applauding the humanness of his presentation. Some might say they appreciate his passion. I’m not sure that’s not just a more acceptable way of saying that they prefer their leaders to sweat a little, to get excited a little. Versus saying “We have an extremely exciting message for you today.”

In political coverage, in the U.S. and the U.K. anyway, reporters sometimes cite the number of times a speaker is interrupted by applause, or how long a particular ovation lasts. I think that may be a valuable metric to keep in corporate town halls. Keep a copy of the presentation with you and make a note whenever the audience responds – claps, gasps, laughs – or hisses. It may say more than the post-event survey.

* There were more than a dozen people on the stage. They were all men. Except for one, they all appeared to be white men. There’s another message, and another metric.


Anonymous said...

Your suggestion about noting which parts of a presentation cause a reaction is a good one. In fact, this is how Steve Martin describes his metrics for the continuous improvement of his stand-up act in his new book, "Standing Down."

Thanks for the insightful comments.

Mariana Sarceda said...

Spontaneous reactions are as valuable as more thought-of responses such as the ones in a survey. None of them should be forgotten or overpassed.