For a great presentation, ask the audience the questions.

by Kerry Martin

I’m always looking for ways to become a better speaker and give better presentations.  A great tip came during the middle of a session I was conducting with partner Dan Ward.

As part of Curley & Pynn’s Message Matrix training to prepare executives for communicating in public, we include in the presentation a few fun videos that demonstrate what can happen when you don’t prepare for interviews with the media.  One video is a clip from “The Bob Newhart Show” and, while nearly 40 years old, it’s still fun to watch Bob squirm while the TV show host grills him with questions and accusations.

It wasn’t until the end of the presentation that one of the participants said to us, “Well, what about in the Bob Newhart example… what should he have done in that situation?”

Dan and I just had to look at each other and say, “Well, that’s a good question; no one’s asked us that before!”

So often we see (or in this case give) presentations showing how a scenario is played out through a case study or sample video.  But a great way to engage your audience is to make them part of the solution, by stopping along the way to ask, “What would you do?” or “How would you respond?”

The hat tip really goes to Grant Heston, associate vice president at the University of Central Florida (Curley & Pynn client), whose recent presentation at a breakfast by the Public Relations Society of America Orlando Chapter piqued the audience’s curiosity more than any case study I had ever seen by having them walk through the problem.

Next time you’re talking to a group about a communications challenge, pose situational questions to them throughout your talk.  If you’re half as good as Grant (and much better than Dan or me), you’ll hook an audience that’s actively engaged in seeing how the story ends.

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