Interaction Throughout the Presentation

Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to encourage audience interaction and involvement.

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing a sales team for a two-day presentation session. The prospect is outsourcing a $1 billion IT project and scheduled 14 different sessions, 30-90 minutes each with 25 presenters and contributors in total.

In a sales situation like this, the more the prospect talks the better. So as the presenter, how do you encourage participation, control the debate and build on the relationship?

Step 1: Dialogue Themes

  • Create five (or less) key critical themes (e.g. competitive differentiators, superior technology)
  • Designate a presenter to deliver on each theme in their monologue
  • Respond to questions in the dialogue with an answer that relates to one of the themes

Step 2: Distill Presentation Content

  • Prepare enough material for each presenter to fill 75% of the allotted time
  • Spend one week preparing and rehearsing the delivery
  • Spend the day before the presentation cutting out material that does not address the issues associated with the key themes
  • Add cut slides to the end of the presentation
  • Deliver the content in half the time, with back up slides to cover the rest IF they are useful to the dialogue

If in the unlikely event the prospect has no questions, you can always go through these slides at the end but in my experience it never happens. If they don’t have any questions, they aren’t really considering you.

Step 3: Prompt Audience Interaction

  • Coach the presenters to encourage dialogue by asking questions of the audience
  • Rhetorical open questions have both a positive effect on audience synthesis but also encourage dialogue: What do you think?

So, How’d it Go?

Historically when I’ve worked with groups of technical or operations focused individuals, it is difficult to get the conversations flowing. So many are inherently quiet, perhaps so they are better able to process the insane amount of complex information that fills their day-to-day lives.

On the whole the session went really well, all presenters got through their core content, focused on the key themes and created good healthy productive dialogue. I consider this a great accomplishment – even the most introverted person can enliven a conversation when it’s something they are passionate and confident about!

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