Presentation Skills Training

Conversational Presentations Have Value



Delivering a one-on-one presentation over breakfast
There is no doubt that conversational presentations have value.

Let’s suppose you arrange a breakfast meeting with a colleague, client or boss. You’re presenting a new idea to the other person, with the goal of obtaining buy-in or approval. You finish breakfast, then devote fifteen or twenty minutes to business.

Would you be able to talk intelligently to the other person about the idea? Of course. Would you get buy-in? Maybe. Maybe not. A variety of factors could determine that. But let’s suppose you do.

How many slides did you need to explain your idea? You might draw a picture on a napkin or piece of paper, or show a single image on your tablet or phone, if needed, but you would simply carry on the conversation.

Let’s suppose you receive approval to proceed. Then, the person says: “I’d like you to talk to the rest of our group about this idea. There are implications across our organization that I’d like them to hear about.”

You learn that the group is comprised of about ten people at a similar level to your early morning partner. The group has a fairly similar perspective about the issue you’re going to present. You’ll get forty-five minutes on the agenda; you’ll have more time to speak to ten people than you did to one.

How many visuals will you use now?

If you’re like most, you’ll sit down at your favourite slideware program (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, Google Slides, Haiku Deck), click your mouse and begin organizing your ideas.

But enough about you. Let’s talk about the audience.

Specifically, let’s talk about your breakfast partner and examine how he or she processes information to understand your idea. Does the way your breakfast partner receives your idea suddenly change from hearing it one-on-one, to when he or she is part of a small group listening to the same person talk about the same concept with the same expected outcome?

No, it doesn't. You change. But should you? Believe it or not, you shouldn't.

To be most effective at helping everyone understand,
the research is clear. You should carry on a similar conversation with the group that you did over breakfast. Give them information. Get to the point. Answer questions. Guide them to the conclusion.

I’ve seen this scenario play out when someone presents to a group with the anticipated outcome of getting a decision, such as budget approval. It may even occur when the decision is supposed to be a slam-dunk. The logic is boiled down to slides that are projected, printed, or both. The presenter believes the slides perfect, but the decision is tabled.

Later, the presenter has a ten-minute conversation with each decision-maker. At the next meeting, the decision is made without second thought. There are many people who now sell their ideas in advance. It’s a sound strategy, but time consuming.

Wouldn’t it be more productive to have one conversation with everyone and get a decision at the meeting? Of course it would.

But until we understand the value of turning presentations into conversations, and smaller conversations into larger ones, pre-selling the budget will be a good, albeit time-consuming, idea.


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Eric Bergman helps his clients shape their presentations strategically and tell their story effectively. If enhancing presentation success is important to you or your organization, contact Eric to learn more.

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Looking to Improve Your Next Presentation?

I recently stumbled upon a presentation twist that has improved the presentation of every person I've seen who has put it into action.

With one uncomplicated act, I am confident that you can improve your ability to connect with your audience and communicate your ideas. I am also confident that your audience will better understand what you're saying, making it easier to apply your ideas or take action on them.
Turn off projector to improve presentation skills


At a future presentation, leave your laptop open and on, but turn off the projector.

I know, I know. The first thought you've had is "how can I deliver a presentation without a projector?" But please bear with me for a moment.

I stumbled upon this twist while conducting a one-day presentation skills program for a group of about 20 physicians, who are often called upon to provide continuing medical education (CME) at their hospitals. The people who hired me (one of whom I provided presentation skills training to at a CME retreat more than 20 years ago) wanted the group to better understand that relaxed conversation is their best presentation style. They also wanted the group to deliver presentations during the session, so they could put the learning into practice.

We knew everyone would bring their presentations in a PowerPoint format, and we discussed the concept that someone doesn't normally pull out a PowerPoint presentation to start a conversation with a colleague or friend. But, since I was already way out of my comfort zone, I suggested that we try something different.

"Why don't we divide the group in half? My assistant can help you with one group,. I would work with the other.

"We could have each person deliver three or four minutes of their presentation with the projector on, then three or four minutes with it off. We'll video record both and see what happens."

The results were amazing. As soon as the projector was turned off, everyone’s full and undivided attention shifted to the presenter. Engagement increased.

The tone of each presentation shifted from a monologue to a conversation. The audience started asking questions. (Is there truly any better measure of engagement than an audience interested enough to ask questions?) The presenter focused on answering questions and building understanding to improve medical practice, rather than marching through slides.

Presenters began to think more before speaking, bringing more precision to what they said. They paused to allow the audience to think and absorb their information. They connected with the audience more effectively because everyone was looking at each other, instead of at the screen.

These are all aspects of a good conversation and, ultimately, an effective presentation.

At the end of the session, one of the participants (who was in the other room all afternoon) came up to me and said: "I must admit I was skeptical this morning. But watching everyone's improvement—not just one person but everyone—made me a believer. I can't wait to put this into action."

I have applied this twist to a number of training sessions during the past year. It has never failed to improve someone's presentation. And, when participants view the video recording of their "before and after" presentations, everyone has agreed that their skills improve significantly when the projector is turned off.

Months later, I was chatting with one of the physicians who attended the session (who hired me to provide a one-hour CME session at her hospital). She commented on how each person communicated more clearly, even when showing pictures. "When the projector was shut off, the presenter communicated more clearly and we could focus on what was being said. The difference was amazing."

This physician has since put the conversational presentation process into action at a job interview. As part of the interview process, she was asked to develop and deliver a brief presentation.

"They were a bit surprised when I told them I didn't have a USB stick so they could upload my presentation," she says. "But I got the job!"