To most of us presenting on itself is already a challenge. Some get pleasure out of it, but most people are happy when it is over. So why even involve the audience? Doesn’t it only make it more difficult for the presenter to manage the story line?
Obvious thoughts, but experience often shows the contrary. Once you let the audience participate in your story, dynamics will start to work for you, instead of against you;
Keep focus: When going back and forth between speaker and audience, the focus is less on you as speaker. Every now and then this comfortably takes away the pressure. Giving you time to zoom out a little, to decide where to speed up or where to give more attention to. Just make sure you have a script to follow and you won’t lose track.
Foster engagement: The audience will feel more involved. They can reflect on what you’ve just said and compare it with their own practice. They can give you and other attendees suggestions or ask you to further explain. When you feel it is time to move on, then remember that you’re in charge at all times!
Create excitement: Your story will come to life. Since often as a presenter you’re the expert, you’ll find that hardly none of the audience’s questions will catch you off guard. Trust it. They will actually fuel your story, because you suddenly remember this good example!
When to ‘bring in the audience’?
Clearly there’s a moment for everything during presenting. In most cases a monologue is very useful to kick off with. It gives attendees a clear understanding, they can get used to you as speaker and it gives time to form some first thoughts. Yet, after a few minutes questions will pop into people’s heads…
By using audience response tool Sendsteps you can let the audience send in comments or questions from the very first moment. This doesn’t mean you have to deal with all of them. Nor deal with them instantly. Your audience can follow all the live comments through the response website on their smartphone. They can give “likes” to questions and comments that appeal most to them. This is called “upvoting”. Either pause in the middle and deal with a few remarks or save them till the very end. The comments ranked highest are there for you to answer.
Normally Q&A sessions are only short. But this is based on the 1.0 approach whereby the presenter asks “Are there any questions?”. Most attendees don’t dare to speak up. However [!], with the use of the tool you’ll find that attendees send in many more comments. Be clever and schedule more Q&A time and don’t be afraid this will cut down your presentation time: consider it as an essential part! A thumb rule? For each 10 minute presentation – 5 minute Q&A!
Criticasters: How to deal with unexpected comments?
Let’s grab the bull by the horns. Many presenters don’t involve the audience as they can be afraid for unexpected questions.
Still, what happens when criticism or negativity remains unaddressed?
Prepare scenario’s: Being an expert in your topic, you know when attendees can sense possible friction. Or when stakes start to conflict. When thinking from the audience’s perspective, you can already prepare on how to tackle certain concerns or critics.
Play a joker: No matter if you’re the CEO or a junior professional, when you receive a difficult question it is perfectly ok to “park it”. Acknowledge the concern or question, let the attendee know you don’t have the answer now, and immediately proceed in informing on how you will follow up. E.g. “That’s a very good question. I understand it bothers you. I find it challenging to answer that question right now, but I’ll get back to it in next month’s newsletter”.
Post-event: How to follow up with unanswered comments?
At the end of the day you’ll have to get your message across. You simply can’t answer all the questions of an audience. With Sendsteps you store the raised questions and by using the upvoting option you can easily filter through the questions with most likes. From here you can decide on how to follow up:
Write a blog: In a blog you can address all questions that haven’t been answered during the presentation. Or at least find the common theme and elaborate on that. The blog can be mentioned in a post-event mailing or can be disclosed on an organization’s website.
Live backstage: During larger events you can consider a back office where speakers go to after their presentation. An interviewer can then ask those questions that are still unanswered. The backstage interview can be livestreamed on the event website. This allows a remote audience to also attend the event and it generates nice footage for after an event.
Record a vlog: In a vlog you can do the same as in a blog. Simply record your answers on video and with it give it a personal touch. Video often scores well and it is great content to spice up the traditional post-event mailing!
E-mail attendees: Or simply follow up personally. If you’ve allowed attendees to send in questions identified [a setting in your Sendsteps Dashboard], then you can e-mail them with a personal reaction. Time consuming? Yes, but often with a big impact!
Tip: The use of a sidekick
No matter if you’re using “upvoting” or not, it is helpful to have a professional sidekick onsite, in the audience. Somebody who represents the voice of the audience. The person either selects incoming messages himself, or he uses the ranking of the audience with it. The point is to have someone to put the questions into a perspective, to give a short summary of what has been shared and with it add to a lively presentation and event. This sidekick operates individually and next to a presenter and/or moderator. Someone supporting the process of audience interaction. Entertaining and valuable at the same time.
In short, involve the audience. Trust the flow that will come with it. Experience the added value for all stakeholders of an event. Set it up cleverly and let it work, not against you, but for you!
Robert is a professional moderator, presenter and speaker coach. Robert has years of experience at home and abroad and works for a broad range of industries. He has interviewed ministers, captains of industry and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In his dealings with the audience, he always uses Sendsteps. With it, an audience is able to voice their opinions, whereby attendees can cast votes or send in comments to speakers and panels on stage. As such, events turn into lively dialogues with everyone being able to speak up!