Time to talk: planning discussions systematically
What do you want to achieve with your presentation? Reach a decision, implement a change or excite interest? This goal determines where you want to take your audience by the end of the meeting. You design your presentation accordingly – but even if it goes perfectly, you’re still not home and dry. The crucial last phase is the audience discussion. At this point, reservations and counter arguments are voiced; positive opinions and supportive information are brought forward. You can respond directly to these, eliminating reservations and incorporating input from your audience. Together, you can arrive at a constructive result – by agreeing to the next steps, for example. So plan the discussion as part of your presentation concept from the beginning. We’ve come up with a few useful suggestions:
- Plan the presentation with sufficient time for discussion: e.g. at least 10 minutes’ discussion for a 30-minute presentation.
- Define the optimal moment for the discussion. With short presentations, it usually makes sense to have the discussion after the presentation. You can add it to the agenda, so that your audience knows that there will be time for discussion at the end of the presentation. With longer presentations you can plan discussion time after particular sections. Separation slides can come in useful here. In the meantime, darken the screen with the ‘B’ key (black), so that your audience concentrates on the discussion.
- Anticipate your audience’s likely objections and reservations, and prepare suitable counterarguments. Ask yourself who is likely to support your position and involve them directly in the discussion: in many cases, it’s worth having a short private chat with a supporter before the presentation. It’s often more convincing when reservations are countered by peers.
- Prepare questions to get the discussion going or lead it in a particular direction.
- Prepare the conclusion: Anticipate a realistic result and lead the discussion in that direction.