Different Audience Temperaments Require Different Presentation Styles

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Have you experienced the following?

  • You're at a non-interactive presentation where the audience is bored stiff
  • You're at a non-interactive presentation where the audience is mesmerized
  • You're at an interactive presentation where nobody wants to talk or knows what to say
  • You're at an interactive presentation where everybody talks and amazing ideas pop up everywhere

Certainly, these various outcomes are largely dependent on the presenter. That's why scads of books and blogs are dedicated to creating and delivering highly effective presentations.

But these outcomes also depend on the temperament of the audience. Some people are interacters - they like conversation, a back and forth exchange of ideas and questions and answers. Some people are non-interacters - they're perfectly fine with listening to a lecture, absorbing, silently reflecting.

Lately, for one-on-one and small group meetings, I've been giving people a choice. I have a formal PowerPoint presentation called Introduction to Business Blogs. It's very informative and almost always well received. However, I've noticed something.

Sometimes, the audience sits and listens, asking few if any questions. Other times, I can't even get off the intro slide before a barrage of questions hits me.

So what I've been doing is asking the client or meeting coordinator, Do you want me to go through the formal presentation, or do you just want to talk?

I'm often surprised by the answer, but it always turns out to be right.

That simple question has saved me a lot of grief, making it easier for me to lead the presentation with confidence, and making it easier for the audience to get the most out of it. It took extra up-front preparation, because I had to think through how I'd handle a discussion format meeting and yet be sure to cover all the relevant points. But I think when you give attendees the freedom to choose their presentation format, you're much more likely to succeed.

Have you ever tried this approach? Do you think giving your listener(s) the opportunity to pick the format would improve your effectiveness?

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