My session at Saturday’s Toastmasters conference was titled Interactive Techniques for Presentations. It’s still amazing to me how few presentations employ any techniques to get the crowd active and involved. But this isn’t true in kindergarten — kids there are constantly involved. I’m not sure where it stops, but at some point we stop expecting interaction and become accustomed to just being spoken to. I think this is tragic. As adults we still have the need for interaction and entertainment, and I think adult crowds respond well to stimulus from the platform or the end of the table. But it’s a lack of really good examples of interactive presentations that makes it so rare, in my estimation.Of course, it’s typically harder to create an interactive presentation than it is to just dump content into a PPT deck and click/read through it. More work for the presenter? Strike two. Finally, most presenters have worked years and decades to get into the position where they have the position/clout/authority to be the presenter, and the last thing they want to do is to give up the platform. This thinking is near-sighted and counter-productive to the message. When people discover things for themselves (i.e. are led to the discovery), they are a LOT more likely to get and retain the message than when it’s just spoken to them. In addition, interactive audiences are able to pay attention for longer periods of time, meaning that there is a greater window of opportunity to get the message across. I’ve seen statistics claiming the adult attention span is anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, but regardless of the real number, we can all agree that it runs out at some point. At that point, the message has ended. Period. Interaction can recharge the audience, spread out the energy required to pay attention, and give them a more positive impression of the presenter. While it does take much effort, it’s worth it in order to deliver a message that sticks.
For your next presentation, employ something to keep your audience active.