4 ways to turn your next business presentation into a conversation

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For decades, meeting rooms and podiums were dominated by linear, one-way presentations. These worked because top-down talks were one of the few resources of expert knowledge you could find. But this changed radically with the rise of smartphones; we can now access business reports, product information, or a company’s latest updates with just a few clicks.

This new easy access challenges presentations as we know them. To stay relevant, we need to switch from one-way broadcasts to conversational presentations that will help people make sense of complex information and fill in missing gaps.

People seem to favor this approach, too. According to The Prezi 2016 State of Presentations Report, 72% of respondents found flexible, two-way, interactive presentations more memorable than linear presentations.

Below, we at Slido share four tactics that will help you flip the outdated slide model on its head and turn your next business presentation into a real conversation.

1. Letting people steer the conversation

Whether it’s from your inbound marketing content or report reviews, your meeting attendees are often already aware of the information that you’re about to present. What they really miss, though, are the answers to specific questions about your product, methods, or results.

Spencer Waldron from Prezi recommends flipping this standard  model and starting by asking people which areas they want to focus on. For example, try starting your meetings with: “Thank you for giving me 20 minutes of your time. How do you think  we can best spend it?

Instead of wasting time on what is already known, you can lay out all of your main topics and then let your attendees  select the areas they want to go into more deeply. This will allow you to start an actual conversation and elaborate on any missing pieces, rather than repeating content that is already understood.

2. Slides < live polls

The idea of leading a conversation might sound appealing, but what if you need to start a dialogue with dozens or hundreds of participants at the same time? Live polling is one of the most effective ways to make a room full of people part of your story and improve their knowledge building.

However, the mere act of sending in votes is not enough. What you really need after the results are in is a facilitation of the discussion. The best facilitators comment on the results, provide additional insights, and most importantly, encourage the audience to share its own views.

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

3. Encourage questions throughout your presentation

Presenters often make the mistake of keeping the Q&A part of a presentation for the very end. But questions are often more important than answers. As Eric Schmidt from Google famously said to TIME: “We run the company by questions, not by answers.”

Global keynote speaker and former journalist Christoph Trappe noted: “I don’t ever do Q&A at the end only. That just seems too unfriendly: Please hold all of your questions until the end. I encouraged questions verbally from the floor and also through the Slido platform throughout. That worked great.

To make Slido or other Q&A platforms work for you, you need to facilitate the crowdsourcing of the questions.

During your session, identify a moment when you simply say: “Now please take a minute and try to find a good question that you think is relevant to this conversation.” Then let people submit and vote on the questions that are sent in. You can address the top questions on the spot and keep the rest for later.

4. Ask for reactions, not just questions

People are so used to absorbing messages passively at presentations that it comes as a great surprise when they are asked to reflect on the content, and then contribute their ideas. And that’s why it’s so effective!

When you lead a session with a larger audience, pose a question or present a statement and let people discuss it in pairs or in small groups. People love to voice their thoughts and share their expertise with others.

To open up discussions, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg advises to ask questions such as: “For you, what was a key take-away from this session? What might you do differently going forward?”

To debrief the exercise, take a few ideas straight from the floor or get people to send them through interaction platforms. This will allow you to capture content for further analysis as well as to enable less vocal participants to share their thoughts.

Learn more about the future of presentations by downloading Prezi’s State of Presentations report below.

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