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Presenting at Meetings

Posted 2016-04-29 By Stefan Ekman

It is a hard thing to present things in a good way at meetings. When things are hard people often fall back on default. The default way of presentation is often Power Point by Microsoft. The culture in many companies sometimes is like: If you have a digital presentation then you are prepared for the meeting, otherwise not. This is not the modern way of meetings. This will hopefully give you some ideas how to make something differently: To be a presentation-ninja.

Skip powerpoint

I think that everybody agrees that sitting too long in the darkness looking at slides, are boring, even if the slides are Presentinbrilliant. You will get sleepy by the format itself. The darkness, the humming of the projector and the inactivity.

Also look at the direction of communication in the picture. The audience is only looking at the bright screen. It is one way communication. Most digital presentations could be substituted by an email that could be read out in the sunshine instead of sitting in a dark often overcrowded room. This is not an optimal way of using the participants time.

Look at it this way; modern meeting attendees are:
• Self-directed: They want to involve themselves in the process
• Curious: They want their experience leveraged
• Goal-oriented: They want clear objectives and outcomes

Given these characteristics, it’s no wonder that the traditional lecture format used in many meetings is no longer cutting it. Today’s attendees are looking for a more immersive meeting experience, with learning at the centre.

Preparing for a good meeting

A good meeting is an opportunity for learning and creating. I used to be at teacher and that of course have made me interested in the concept of learning. A brilliant professor, Knud Illeris, has written a couple of books about learning. The central thing is this is his view that learning involves three dimensions:
• content
• interactions
• incentive

To make a good learning experience at a meeting we should include all of these. Just making the powerpoint might cover the first one, but we must find ways to trigger the other parts. Sometimes it is better to have less content in the presentation to emphasize the others and get through better with the important stuff.

Knud Illeris

How can we use these three aspects to get better meetings? I will look at the aspects one by one to make a brief analysis. This is a shortcut and they must work together. Thus, the techniques presented below are really not just supporting one of the dimensions, but I use them as examples for each starting-point for each. I will not explain the formats here, but you will find links at the end for more information.

Interactions

If you look at the first picture in this post, with the people looking at the screen, you can easily see the direction of attention. In a digital presentation the level of interaction between the participants is low. It is even common that the level of interaction between the audience and the presenter is low.

The format itself directs attention away from the persons. Maybe that is the reason for some people to use this format: It is less embarrassing and feels safe.

Group Thinking

Now look at this picture: When other formats are introduced to make the meeting more interactive all can contribute to the idea and evolve. Good discussions create new ideas and the sum of knowledge has a possibility to be greater than all the participant’s knowledge by them self. This brings progress. Note, that in some meetings you don’t want progress; you want consolidation and then traditional forms might be more efficient. This is about creative progressive meetings.

To have more interaction you can use a lot of different techniques ranging from methods where the audience sits at their places to more active where the people need to move around. Some examples where the room is left unchanged can be:
• Voting
• Questions to persons in the audience
• Buzz groups

If you have the possibility to move people around; you can level up with more active formats:
• Body Voting
• Discussion groups
• World Café
• Speed Geeking

Combinations are often good. For example, you might start with a body-voting to make good discussion groups with different views on the discussions.

Content

There are of course ways to present content in more active ways. The key is to have variation and activity. Change pace and tone and don’t be afraid to pause to make the audience think. Also remember to use content from other persons than yourself.

When it comes to the content that you are presenting it is basically classic rhetoric:

Classiv Rethoric

Ethos is about the long-term feelings of confidence, how we feel, and show enthusiasm. The audience must believe that you care about them and their needs. It is of paramount importance is that you show up able and competent. If you are out of your area, don’t pretend. Instead be honest and use the audience as your friend and source of information. Listen!

This is backed with logos - rational argument. These arguments appeal to the audience's own ability to reason and draw conclusions. In our domain we tend to emphasize too much on this. Facts and figures are important, but they are not all. Try to make your rational arguments personal: Stories and testimonies can help this. This brings us to the final point in presenting content.

Pathos are short term feelings that plays on the audience's feelings and often used to motivate them to something. Because emotions get people to react more than logic, so it is always best to start with the logical arguments and then finish with emotional arguments. This brings in the incentive part of the learning process.

Formats that emphasize the content in a livelier way can include:
• Storytelling
• Graphic recording
• Master Classes
• Case Studies

Incentive

Good content and interaction will itself give incentive. It is also important to think of the purpose of the meeting before asking the audience to participate. We should never have meetings just because we ought to. The meeting must have a clear purpose and the purpose should be shared by the participants.

Incentive

To get more drive you can use techniques that are more alive and have possibility to build some kind of tension and activity. Think how TV-channels tries to get audience to their shows.

Formats that could give more life that one single lecturer talking can include:
• Fish Bowl discussions
• Market with posters, laptop presentations etc.
• Interviews
• Talk show
• Appreciative Inquiry
• Critical Incident
• Simulated Encounters

Still, remember: That inner drive always is the best way to go. You should have meetings that matter to the people in the room. Formats will not help if people think that something is pointless.

Summary

To have a good meeting takes preparation to have good content, good interactions and incentive. A meeting should be some form of collaboration. This really should be obvious, as the word means that people meet. Otherwise it would be called a gathering. If it is really not a meeting you need, then you could write a mail or newsletter, record a podcast or video with the information. Don’t waste peoples time!

More information

Instead of writing my own texts about these formats look at:
http://www.kstoolkit.org/KS+Methods
http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2010/07/during-the-meeting-how-to-deliver-content-that-engages/
http://p2i.eval.org/index.php/p2i-tools/

Shameless plug: Are you a ninja? We are hiring in all our offices.

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