Should you call out an individual by name?

Question about engaging your audience

I asked the group of MBA students for examples of ways to engage your audience. One student suggested selecting an individual, calling their name and directing a question to that person. He pointed out that this was a common technique used by professors in the university classroom.

“Roger, tell us the issues in this case study.”

An interesting example that I had forgotten, because I hadn’t been on the receiving end of a professor’s or teacher’s attention for decades.

Clearly this is one way of engaging your audience. In the classroom this is an accepted and necessary technique. Professors might attempt to engage their students through interest and inspiration. At some point they might provoke individuals to trigger critical thinking and hence group discussion. Inclusion might require directed engagement to pull in the reluctant or sleepy ones.

Students might not always enjoy this unwanted attention but it is almost always in their best interest. I believe that a good teacher will provoke their students to participate when needed.

In a business presentation you will almost never use this technique.

“Sophia, what do you think about this new marketing strategy?”

Why? Because, when delivering a business presentation you likely don’t want to provoke your audience. If you provoke them, you might provoke the group with your creative ideas. But you will not want to pick on an individual during a presentation. There are many other ways to engage your audience without attacking an individual.

You might not have intended it to be an attack but it could easily be perceived that way.

When presenting in a business environment you are likely attempting to persuade the audience to make a decision in your favor.

This example is looking at presentations. A business planning meeting among equals would have different rules.

When I facilitate a planning meeting, instead of calling out a person, I have asked, “Who haven’t we heard from yet?” I might even make eye contact with an individual, smile and wait for that person to speak.

This is another example of how effective presentation techniques can vary among different environments.


George Torok

Speech Coach for Executives

Presentation Skills Training



Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.

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