Turn your next presentation into powerful conversation with these 5 tips

There is nothing more tedious than a rigid set of slides with scripted content presented or read out at you.

Let’s face it: the traditional one-way presentation format usually falls short of participants’ needs. A recent Prezi survey finds that attendees find a flexible, two-directional information flow much more powerful than a linear talk.

Here at Slido, we’ve powered the interaction between presenters and audiences at over 120,000 events and meetings. And we’ve learned a lot from them. Below we share our five tips to help you turn your next presentation into an interactive conversation and add value for your audience.

1. Don’t save Q&A for the end — ask questions throughout

The opportunity to ask questions is often the most valuable part for the attendees. And yet, Q&A is often left for the last few minutes or jettisoned completely.

To boost engagement, don’t wait for the very end to invite the audience to ask questions. Instead, encourage people to ask questions throughout your presentation. You can do so verbally or through a live Q&A platform.

When you’re planning your presentation, build in two or three dedicated pauses or, as we call them, interaction points, to re-engage the audience. Use these moments to take a step back from the delivery and create space to take some questions from the floor.

Similarly, if you’re using a live Q&A platform, remind people to submit and upvote questions throughout your presentation. You can use the interaction points to address the questions with the highest amount of votes. This will help you make the Q&A part more democratic, focused and relevant.

2. Ditch the script — nobody wants to hear a canned presentation

Stop memorizing. Ditch the script. Presenting without one will allow you to be more attentive to the audience’s reactions. You’ll have more flexibility to adjust the style or content accordingly.

To help you navigate through your presentation without a script, structure it around the Rule of Three. Conveying your message in three parts will make your message more effective and memorable.

As the best-selling author and experienced speaker, Tim Ferriss, advises, you can split the presentation into intro, main body and outro. Ideally, divide the main body into three parts too, as it tends to be long and therefore difficult to deliver in one breath. Then rehearse each part separately until you are happy with it.

Instead of using a full script on the day, you can create a mind map to help you stay on the right track.

3. Use live polls to understand the attendees’ expectations

Live polls are an effective tool that can help you quickly learn more about the audience and your meeting participants’ needs in real time, right from the start.

As a result, you can allocate the time based on their priorities and make sure everyone gets the most out of your presentation.

Below are two poll examples that our team members use to make presentations more conversational.

  • If you have a set of predefined agenda points, you can ask the meeting participants: Which of these topics would you like to focus on today? (multiple choice poll), to prioritize the topic that needs the most time.
  • In case the meeting allows some space for open discussion, you can crowdsource the topics which you can consider for adding to the agenda by asking: What would you like to discuss at this meeting?

If you’d like to learn more about using and facilitating live polls in a presentation, check out this Complete Guide which we recently put together.

4. Customize your presentation in the moment

In the words of Sims Wyeth, an expert on persuasive speaking, “Making adjustments [to your presentation] is the meat of being in dialogue with an audience.”

To deliver a presentation tailored to your attendees’ needs, ask them what they want to hear next and adjust the flow accordingly.

A great example of customizing a presentation in the moment was demonstrated at the recent Experience Conference 2018. As this article highlights, David Ruiz, Head of Design and CX at Orange Bank used live polls to let the audience choose the topics they wanted to hear about next.

To replicate it in your presentation, create a live poll with multiple options and let the attendees select which path they want to take. It will give you the flexibility to present only the most relevant information and skip anything that’s not applicable.

In smaller venues, where a presenter can speak to their audience directly, conversational presenting allows you to ask your audience what they'd like to hear about in the moment.

5. Master the art of conversation

To bring it all together, conversational presenting requires one key skill — facilitation. And as with many other things, you need to prepare in order to succeed.

If you plan to open and lead a discussion with the audience, consider which questions they might ask and draft your possible answers in advance. You can also ensure that your presentation is ready for a conversational style delivery by designing it around a conversation and using a platform that supports a non-linear format, like Prezi.

You can’t predict exactly how a conversation will go, of course, but you can certainly make an educated guess at the different directions it could take.

Putting in the time to consider your content from a bird’s eye view will help you to identify the primary sections and subsections of your message, as well as the many avenues of interest that will reveal themselves when you let your audience do the driving.

Extra tip: Here is a quick facilitation hack. Ask people ‘What are your questions?’ instead of ‘Are there any questions?’. It is much more inviting than the latter close-ended option.

In case your presentation contains live polls, try to guess which option might turn out to be the winning one and prepare your reaction accordingly. But don’t stop there. Make sure you have different reactions up your sleeve in case the other options end up in the lead.

For you as a speaker and facilitator in one person, combining tools like Prezi and Slido will then allow you to deliver your content with full flexibility.

The most effective presentations are those that drive meaningful conversations with the attendees. Leverage the above tips and flip the format around by putting the attendee at the center. For full impact, learn some basic facilitation techniques to bind it all together.

For more on live polls, visit www.slido.com. To learn about presenting conversationally, visit www.prezi.com.

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