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We have reached a point where presentations need revitalizing. It’s been a long time coming and it’s time we made a change, says Spencer Waldron from Prezi. 

 

For those in sales, the buyer’s journey has been forever altered by the internet. Potential leads have access to an unprecedented amount of information even before they start a dialogue with you. When considering working with you, they will already be 57 per cent of the way through their decision making process before they even pick up the phone. They will have undertaken research, looked at the competitor landscape and judged your product before you even get a chance to get in front of them. That process is becoming ever more digitised – today 67 per cent of the journey takes place online.

With that being the case, it’s pointless to use your first meeting to present information they’ve already discovered – and judged – on their own. Many businesses, however, are still making this mistake, and that’s one of the key reasons the traditional business presentation no longer works.

As the buyer’s journey is transforming your presentation should be changing alongside it. The first step to doing this can be done by joining a fast-growing group of business leaders, media personalities and sales executives who have embraced a technique called ‘Conversational Presenting’.

The idea begins by building one presentation that contains all the information you need for any meeting on your subject. Once that presentation is in place, you simply present a different version of it each time, depending on who is sitting around the table. You adapt to fit the audience you’re speaking to.

But remember, the beginning of a meeting sets the tone for all of what follows. Starting your presentation with a question is one of the best ways to engage your audience right away.   Try starting with something along the lines of: “Thanks for giving me 20 minutes of your time, how can we best spend it?” or “Thank you for joining me today. We’ll be talking through X subjects, so where would you like to start?”  Then let the conversation control what you may or may not show of your presentation.

If this revitalisation sounds interesting, there are two key aspects of conversational presenting you need to know, which will turn the traditional approach on its head.

Structure

Rather than attempting to tell a linear story – scrolling through numerous pages of information from point A to point B – conversational presenting ideally operates within a single space. Instead of the typical slide after slide approach, the conversational method means putting all the information forward in a single, open canvas. That canvas can then be navigated in a variety of directions, depending on your audience’s interests and the flow of your conversation. Prezi’s platform is built around this single canvas approach, allowing users to make all their information available to the audience in a visually engaging package.

Think of the structural adjustment like this: instead of offering up a single route to memorize, you are handing over the map and letting the audience explore all the different options. This lets the audience feel like they are in the driver’s seat, rather than being a passenger. Simultaneously, this nurtures their natural curiosity and desire to explore.

It may be a daunting prospect at first, and may feel like a sacrifice of control, but it brings two major benefits. It will not only make your audience more engaged but will also push you to know the subject inside-out, in a way that means no question – no matter how unexpected – will throw you off track. You’ll be a bullet-proof presenter in a way that you may have never been before.

Delivery

Multi-party participation is crucial to conversational presenting. Kicking off with a confident, straight to the point ‘What would you like to focus on?’ will set the tone and jolt the audience into action.

As soon as someone pipes up, you can dive straight into the area suggested and from there, with further participation, the presentation will move naturally along the lines of audience interest, with you remaining in control of the bigger picture.

This shift in delivery has a huge impact, as it moves the audience towards dynamic, participatory learning. In school, an out of the blue request for input puts the whole class on their toes, making them more vigilant and attentive. The same applies to your audience.

For many, presentations – whether they are delivering them or receiving them –  have been stuck in the past. Presentations should be exciting opportunities to learn or teach, not an exercise based on listing out facts that could be supplied as easily on a sheet of paper. By using the above techniques and encouraging audience participation, engagement will naturally follow. This is the first step toward achieving the goal of your presentation, and it will make the rest of the journey more interesting, memorable and thus effective.

Spencer Waldron is the Regional Director (Europe) of Prezi

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