Death by Panel Discussion (and by PowerPoint)
Presenting at a conference is an amazing opportunity to exert yourself as a credible and respected expert in your field. Despite the substantial effort and time people often put forth to secure a workshop, many often fail to put enough thought, effort and creativity into making their presentation a memorable experience for the audience.
Too many of us use as a default the ever-reliable “panel discussion” or a flat PowerPoint presentation to convey our message. While your information may be good, if your audience isn’t engaged, your key points (and you) will be forgotten before the next coffee break.
Advantages of a panel include little preparation time (we assume). The facilitator need only prepare a few questions and then try to keep the conversation going. In reality, the Q & A panel format is very difficult to get right and most often the “conversation” degrades quickly into repetitive answers, i.e. “…I agree with what Mr. So and So sitting next to me just said…” Then they go on to nevertheless repeat what Mr. So and So just said…and so on down the excruciatingly boring line.
Similar to panels, unless you are naturally funny and/or a great speaker, a PowerPoint presentation with you at the helm is also not likely to get rave reviews in conference evaluations. Most of us need a little help in spicing things up.
Hosting a workshop is your chance to shine and be unforgettable! You owe it to yourself to make your presentations as memorable as possible
Preparation is key. Before a workshop (like months or at least weeks before, not the day before…), think about your audience and what they might enjoy or relate best to. Here are a few recent examples of what we’ve done:
Example 1: Recently we did a workshop for a bunch of teachers. Teachers are fun people, particularly when they are away from their students. So we played a Jeopardy style game where they were allowed to collaborate with colleagues, compete amongst themselves, get loud and have fun while actually engaging in substantive discussions about serious issues they care about.
Example 2: A few weeks ago we had an opportunity to host a roundtable for Iowa manufacturing leaders. Manufacturers are tough business-minded folks who appreciate peer-to-peer relationships. They enjoy social activities like golf and, we thought, perhaps cards! Within a few minutes (and with a number of props), we turned our round table into a blackjack table worthy of a scene in Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” music video, whiskey bottle and all. It was standing room only and folks didn’t want to move on. We gave substance, we tied our fun to a marketing theme and we got noticed.
By trying something new and different, audiences will remember you as someone who is willing to be creative and take risks. They’ll appreciate your efforts, as will the conference organizers.
Depending upon your subject and your level of comfort doing something a bit different, there are innumerable ideas you could try to spice up your workshop. Below are just a few simple ones. Take some time to look online and research “memorable workshops and presentations” to find others that might be suitable. Ask your co-workers to brainstorm ideas and, of course you can always contact Measured Intentions for great ideas that will strategically position and support your business.
Yes everyone thinks these are cheesy and no one wants to do them at first but they force people to have a bit of fun and the right activities do really get people loosened up. Starting with an ice-breaker can reduce inhibitions and truly make your workshop much more interactive.
Check out these other great ideas to garner more engagement at your workshops and presentations!
Throwing out a prize (candy, t-shirts, etc.): Give away something to anyone who asks a question or answers one of yours. This works well for all audiences. People will also pay more attention so they don’t get hit by flying items and they’ll want to see if the intended recipient can catch. Always have something on-hand to toss out, just in case your workshop needs pepping up.
Involving the audience: Think of a way to incorporate roll-playing into your presentation. For example, ask a participant to give their best response to a potential customer they are courting who says: “I tried your product years ago and it ruined my new wood floor!”
Arranging chairs in a unique and unexpected way: Or, once folks are seated, make them re-arrange themselves and have a two-minute conversation with someone they don’t know. Choose a few to ‘introduce their new friend’. Get their brains in gear.
Using props: Always good to grab attention.
Using movie/old music video clips: Especially movies/videos from the generation of the audience that they remember and can relate to.
Serving food or drink: Kids love candy; adults might appreciate a cup of coffee and cookies.
Set up the room using a theme: This requires a bit of work but will definitely get the attention of your audience.
Do a “post-presentation quiz” for a prize: Hand a 10-question quiz out to everyone after your presentation. Give them five minutes to fill it out. Have them hand it to the person behind them to “grade” as you call out the answers. You can make it easy and give an inexpensive prize to (hopefully) a number of folks or you can make it tough and give away something really great to the one or two people who really paid attention. This will help you in preparation for your next workshop – if people are struggling to remember your information, you need to do something different!
Teach them a skill: Everyone loves to learn a new skill! For example: hand out cheap ropes and teach them a cool knot. Somehow relate this to the theme of your presentation. They’ll be tying knots for the rest of the day (and showing off to their colleagues and friends) and thinking of you! Teach them a word/phrase in a foreign language. You could even teach a basic first aid technique that could be useful in their real life.
Fun Activities” How about handing out a pastry bag of frosting and letting them decorate a cookie? Tie their decoration into the theme of your presentation somehow, i.e. if it’s a personal branding workshop you could challenge them to create a cookie that best represents them.
The opportunities to get noticed and be remembered from hosting a workshop are innumerable. If you need assistance thinking of or implementing a great idea for your next workshop, contact us today!