wise elephant, making it happen

The UnDone Presentation: My non-linear presentations have been ultimately more successful…

By Jason Moriber • May 20th, 2010 • Category: Strategy & Planning, Thinkering

The UnDone Presentation:
My non-linear presentations have been ultimately more successful than pre-planned, linear-driven slide-deck talks even if they are much harder to manage.

I chose the non-linear path for my recent Social Media seminar for APA | NY . Engaging your audience is a hard dance to manage but, as in this case proved, doing so offers greater value FOR THE ATTENDEES from the event. Value means the audience gained answers to questions; ideally these answers demand a renewal of thought.

Blame Socrates, but he was right. With an audience eager to learn, you can’t assume you’re on the right track unless you ask them. Doing so might mess up your slide-deck plans, but it’s not about you, it’s about them. It’s the presenters role to make sure we can offer the audience an experience that cannot take place over the phone, via an email, through an online video, or in a written case-study. I aim to engage and answer. If you’ve made the effort to come see me, I’m going to give you all the available real-live-ness I can. Take the risks, don’t be afraid of “being real.” We’re people not robots.

Here’s a quick run-down of how I think you can make an UnDone presentation successful:

Do The Early Work
Get as much feedback on the topic from your audience before the event starts. Either through questionnaires, surveys, emails, whatever. Then prepare to answer these questions and seek out the askers from the audience, engage them, invite them into the process. Give shout outs to the people who asked the questions and then confirm with them, during the seminar/presentation, if you’ve answered their questions well.

40 minutes before the true start time, sit at the podium, put a slide or site or image on the screen and speak about it. Ask the audience as they roll-in questions about why they are here, what do they need to know, what are their anxieties. Some will tell you, others will want to hear your loose thoughts, which then opens them up to later dialog. As the space fills up,
engage the new arrivals. They’ll see you’re already on a roll, speaking with the audience and the tone will be set that this is a conversation, not a demonstration.

Announce Your Intention
Be transparent with the audience that you will be running the seminar with engagement as the part of the plan. Make sure the materials (print.web.email) that describe your event include this gist and you should personally reaffirm it at the outset of the event. Define how you would like to interact (”I will post a slide, speak to it, then ask questions of the crowd. I’ll answer the first few questions, then see where it leads.”) If your audience is over 150 attendees, use software (twitter tags), microphones, a structure to make sure you are opening the floor to input.

Cut The Deck
Prepare your slides as an outline, not as the rigid path. Plan on moving up and down through your deck based on the response from the audience. Ideally you’ll have a folder of slides that are not linked, which enables you the freedom to move.

As noted above, ask your audience if you’ve answered the question well. They’ll tell you what aspects they want to learn more about. Ask permission from the crowd to move on. State, “I think we’ve covered that, with your permission I want to talk about this…”

Get Tight and Paint Loose
Know your stuff, have a firm grasp of the topic of the seminar, but be ready to bob and weave. if you do your homework you should be able to answer many questions on the topic, but not all. If you don’t have an answer, don’t fake it. State you don’t have the answer but you will research it and get back to them. Plus the answer to a question might come from a fellow member of the audience. Ask if someone from the audience can add to an answer, to share their experience, to point out a different way.

It’s Not a Concert, Its a Conversation, Wind Down Without a Bang
There is no final triumphant song. Announce the remaining time as you reach towards the expected end and express that those with questions can remain in the space with you for more Q & A. In parallel, create a welcoming opportunity for those who have to leave for them to ask you questions later, such as providing your phone number and email address.

Plan a Follow-Up
Now that you’ve learned what everybody in the audience wants and needs, create a follow-up (such as a series of screen-casts) that answer the questions more deeply. Similar to Roll-On-In, keep the flow rolling. Keep the conversation moving, keep open to questions, and you’ll provide the greatest value possible.


This approach isn’t for everyone, but I’ve been witnessing the positive results, and suggest you give it a try. Let me know if you have any questions on the above by posting a comment below.


Thumbnail image credit: dps

Jason Moriber is a veteran product/project/marketing manager, underground artist/musician, and online community developer, Jason expertly builds/produces/manages clients' projects, programs, and campaigns. Follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/jelefant
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