Let’s face it — nobody likes being talked at and most people digest information far more effectively by having a two-way conversation. With this in mind, many attempts have been made to make one-way forms of communication more interactive. However, while conferences are one of the most common forms of communication and learning in the professional space, they are still typically presented in a one-way format.
Often you’ll get the most value out of structuring your talk like a conversation with a friend — encouraging questions, insight and debate. Organising your presentation like a conversation may seem challenging, but it really just requires tweaking your thought process when you initially write it up.
Don’t limit yourself to a set structure
Instead of plotting out your key messages in a set order, consider mapping them across a single space to let your audience explore your ideas in an order they choose. That way they’ll see the big picture at the outset, and from there decide where and how closely they want to zoom in. This approach will invite them to participate in your presentation from the get go. Live discussion will naturally guide your talk and let you move things around or add points of interest as you go. Whether B2B or B2C, a presentation that invites engagement around an idea in real time while it’s being presented will make the idea more meaningful and memorable.
Interact with your audience
Expecting your audience to engage with your talk but remain passive is unrealistic, particularly given how much attention spans have shortened. A recent study from Microsoft discovered the human attention span has fallen from an average twelve seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds, mainly due to technology and our digital lifestyle.
Another 1985 study tested students on their ability to recall facts from a 20 minute presentation. You might assume that they would remember the end of the presentation better than the start as it was the most recent. However, it was the opposite — students remembered far more of what they had heard at the very start of the presentation. By the time it was halfway over, they had zoned out.
These studies show that our attention spans are temperamental and interactivity is required in order to command attention. Your presentation will therefore work best if given in a way that encourages conversation and can be modified in the moment. While informal, it’s incredibly effective.
Invite discussion and debate
Letting an idea develop in a conversational and collaborative setting is the best way to discover its full potential. There’s nothing quite like comparing perspectives, combining them, and discovering the bigger idea that comes out of it. The conversational approach helps to kickstart this process by inviting different perspectives and inspiring creativity. Ultimately, it’s when we’re allowed to be creative that we enjoy the work we do, and the more we enjoy what we’re doing, the better we do it.
Consider taking a less formal and more creative approach with your next sales presentation, and actually have a conversation with your audience. You’re likely to be surprised at their appreciation of your two-way approach, and will inevitably become more engaged with your product or idea.
Karen Tang is Head of Sales, Customer Success and Support at Prezi