There’s a new school of thought on presenting at the moment. Following the very true advice that presentation content should be dictated by the audience, some presenters are opting to step away from the format of a traditional presentation and instead simply prepare resources for a ‘discussion’ with the audience – focusing on the audience’s needs rather than the presenter’s.
The trouble with this approach is exactly that – that it tailors all presentation content to audience needs, and entirely ignores the needs of the presenter. Presenters don’t present for the fun of it; they have a message to deliver, and objectives to meet. Failing to address these needs might make things entertaining for the audience, but will just completely waste the presenter’s time – and ultimately, the audience’s.
So what are the pros and cons of this approach? And is there a suitable compromise?
Advantages of the ‘visual conversations’ approach
It really is dictated by the audience – so you know they’ll be interested in your content. You’re talking about what they want to talk about, after all!
It’s flexible – so if your audience’s needs change, you’re in a position to adapt. If the CEO walks in and announces that he’s changed his mind, you can show him an alternative.
It’s different – so you should stand out, particularly from bullet point presenters.
Disadvantages of the ‘visual conversations’ approach
You can miss getting your messages across. If you don’t structure your presentation around your key messages, it can be easy to overlook one – which could have serious repercussions on the effectiveness of your presentation.
Audiences don’t always ask the right questions – you have to make sure you tell them the right things! They might not be aware of something that could be really beneficial to them, so it’s important you inform them of the things you think they should know.
You don’t get the benefit of using a presentation structured to make the most of memory techniques such as Passive Mnemonic Processes and attention spans. Presentations which take these into consideration are significantly better remembered by their audiences – which means your key messages are more likely to be remembered.
This approach puts things entirely in the hands of your presenters (or sales team) at the point of delivery, as you have no control over the content they’re delivering. You can’t know if they’re making the best job of it, and they could be missing out important things without your knowledge.
Being different is only good if it’s beneficial – you could go in and perform a persuasive dance as part of your sales call, but it’s unlikely that it would help!
Really, it depends on the situation, but generally getting your points across and achieving your objectives is the best way to make a presentation effective for both presenter and audience. Yet it is still important to be able to adapt content to meet changing audience needs. We think that the best solution is to use interactive presentations that offer you the best of both worlds. You can structure your content and ensure that your key messages are covered, and then have different sections to dip in and out of depending on what your audience is interested in.
And of course, the best solution of all is to take your audience’s needs into account – and then write a structured presentation based on this. Your presentation should be focused on their needs and requirements – a very ‘you-based’ vocabulary etc. If you make sure that your content is relevant to your audience, they will appreciate you informing them in a structured fashion – and you’ll get the results you need.