Have you ever sat through a really bad presentation, meeting or workshop? I guess we all have and more often than we wish to remember. What was it that made it bad? Now think about a really great meeting, workshop or presentation that you have attended recently. What made it great? What were those things that made it successful? Somewhere on your list will be involvement and audience participation. The signs of a highly successful meeting are the quality of discussion, the exchange of ideas and points of view, and the sharing of knowledge and experience, in short audience participation.
How do you unlock audience participation?
Start with the End in Mind. What are your desired outcomes for the presentation, meeting or workshop? List the Top 3 objectives you have as outcomes of the meeting. Think carefully about this when choosing a name for your presentation, workshop or meeting. “Quarterly Business Review” sounds like exactly that. A meeting who’s title is “Identifying and finding ways to remove costs that won’t negatively impact revenue growth” creates a totally different perception and expectation about the desired outcomes of the meeting. Set expectations upfront and challenge your audience to find at least 3 personal “Take Aways”: actionable ideas that they can put to work immediately.
Engage them immediately. Skip the personal introductions and normal meeting protocol. Go straight to your desired outcome and your expectations. Connect with your audience immediately by soliciting their ideas, input, agreement/disagreement, opinions and feelings. Encourage interaction and exchange of ideas. How? by asking questions. By asking for their opinions, asking for examples and stories that illustrate a point, or simply asking for their validation of the item being discussed. Get them involved and keep them involved through frequent and continuous inclusion.
Think like a Facilitator. Use “the answer is in the room” thinking. How? Don’t answer the question, put it to the room. What is the difference between a Presenter and a Meeting Facilitator? When running a meeting or a workshop you are not a subject matter expert, you are a process expert. Your role is to liberate the tacit knowledge, opinions and collective experience of all participants. Leverage the power of simplicity. Speak less and say more. Remember, briefness equates to effectiveness.
Maintain Momentum. Use stories, storytelling, anecdotes and humor to keep things moving. Energy and engagement tend to drop off after a while. You can avoid this by telling stories and encouraging participants to tell stories. Relevant stories embody key ideas and are memorable. People love stories, they engage us and they energise us. Start building a library of personal stories that you can use in your next workshop, meeting or presentation.
Finish Strong. Review key actions, learning points and agree next steps. Summarise their ideas; recognise the value of their ideas. Point out the positives, build on them, test and challenge them. Invite comments and inclusive group discussion. Do this and you will make your presentations, meetings and workshops productive, constructive, energising and highly memorable.