Recently, we explored a key skill in corporate storytelling – how to build a presentation that addresses the needs of multiple stakeholders (rule of thumb: three different stakeholders? Three different interests!) To continue in this vein, we want to also point out the importance of not just anticipating the needs of your audience before the presentation, but during as well. And the best way to address the in-the-moment needs of your audience is to regularly interact with them.
The ability to solicit and respond to audience feedback is one of the most important presentation skills you can have. It truly separates the skilled presenter from the novice. Here is the simplest way to get interactive with your audience:
How Pro Presenters Get People Talking
Creating a two-way dialogue during your presentation is actually pretty simple. Always build in pauses throughout your presentation to solicit questions and gauge interest. For instance, early on in your story, you lay out your BIG Idea. This is a good time to take a pause and ask your audience for feedback. Not only does this give you the opportunity to measure reactions, but pausing – even momentarily – each time you repeat your BIG idea, gives your audience time to let it really sink in. Another bonus? It gives you a moment to breathe and compose your thoughts.
Let’s look at an example for soliciting feedback from an executive in your audience:
“Ms. CEO: I know you’re short on time today. So, let me ask you…would you like to know WHY I’m recommending the new XYZ Initiative or would you like me to show the details of HOW we think the initiative will benefit the company?"
Basically, if she wants you to tell her WHY, you are going into greater detail about the characters setting and of your story (the background). If the answer is “get to the HOW” it is an indication that your audience wants you to move quickly into the resolution of your story. Either way, you have pinpointed exactly what she wants to hear from you, thereby putting her in the driver seat (which most executives love!).
Remember, presenters who garner audience feedback, then zig and zag based on what they are hearing, will always come out ahead. This critical skill will ensure greater attention from your audience and better retention of your presented ideas.
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