In the last two years, I’ve been to a college graduation, a building dedication, and several dozen conference opening sessions that all had the same format—the first 10-15 minutes of the opening presentation was a long list of thank-you's. The organizer thanked the sponsor, the committee volunteers, the board of directors, the outgoing president, etc. It not only leaves the audience bored and disinterested, but also doesn't make anybody who's mentioned actually feel that appreciated. When you’re just one member on a long list, it doesn’t feel very special.
Since so many of the sessions I go to involve high school counselors, here are a few suggestions to avoid losing your audience's interest in a sea of thanks.
1. Put the audience first.
Whatever you promised your audience—an opening speaker, a celebration of one person’s retirement, or a free college admissions seminar—that’s what you should give them. Thanking your staff may be important to you, but it’s not important to most of your audience, and every second you spend talking about something else, you’re losing the precious attention they’re giving you. (Tip: if you want to make it all about you, start a blog).
2. Find a better way to thank people.
You should thank people who deserve it—you just shouldn’t do it at the expense of the presentation. Instead, thank them individually and sincerely. If they’d appreciate public recognition (not everybody does), do a short write-up about them and what they did that deserves thanks. Put their pictures in so people will recognize them. Add it to the conference program, or hand it out at the beginning of the session.
Now you please your audience and the people you need to thank.