Meeting hosts often think that presenting to a room full of people is the best way to share ideas.
But sometimes it’s better to have a conversation, where other voices are considered and different views are exchanged.
That’s Nancy Duarte‘s point of view, author of the new HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, and two award-winning books on the art of presenting, Slide:ology and Resonate. Her team at Duarte, Inc., has created more than a quarter of a million presentations for its clients and teaches public and corporate workshops on presenting.
How do you decide which approach to take?
- Map out what you’re trying to accomplish and carefully considering your meeting goals.
- If you are informing or persuading, plan to present. If you’re looking for give-and-take, you won’t get it by speaking at length. More likely, you’ll shut folks down.
- Facilitating a conversation is a better way to solicit ideas, but it’s harder to do. In presenting, you have almost total control. You simply focus on the message and delivery to engage an audience.
- When leading a conversation, you open the door to many challenges. You want to encourage thought sharing freely and honestly, but that also means you have to juggle multiple viewpoints, manage conflicts, and assure everyone is heard.
The benefits of having a conversation outweigh the risks – if you do it right. Facilitation is a skill that takes time to develop. Here are a couple of techniques to help you get started:
Collaborate with sticky notes and flip charts — To encourage brainstorming and building on each other’s ideas, use sticky notes and flip charts to gather the information rather than having one note taker. Attendees can capture ideas quickly, cluster them, and rearrange them. Use different colors to distinguish between types of content and different sizes to denote hierarchy.
Sticky notes and flip chart pages on the wall allow the group to see all the ideas and incorporates the benefits of kinesthetic learning by encouraging
movement by writing, standing and physically shifting ideas. Whenever Nancy builds a presentation, writes a book, or thinks of a new initiative, she posts thoughts on sticky notes and printouts on the wall. She invites a bunch of smart people to come in and review, remove, and re-organize my notes to refine her idea.
Capture the meeting graphically — Visual note taking, doodling, graphic recording, sketching – whatever you call it, can greatly enhance collaborative meetings. People who see what you’re saying can understand you more quickly and clearly. If you record notes visually, especially on a mural, attendees retain more details through visual memory and spatial recall. You have an artifact that can be displayed to remind the team of the discussion. Visualizing helps participants pay attention, stay engaged, clarify individual ideas, and see the big picture. A large-scale graphic provided by an experienced facilitator summarizes and memorializes the discussion. And it serves as the next meeting’s starting point.
Nancy says these two techniques can turn even the most lethargic and uninterested groups of people into active contributors working together to get something done.
Presenting can go a long way toward changing minds and bringing people together around a common idea. But when it’s input and consensus that you need, Nancy says consider having a conversation. This can help you turn boring meetings into experiences that leave people excited and energized.
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