Large Meeting Participation

Have you ever been at a meeting where presentations go on and on and on, and you have no way of absorbing all of the material because it is coming at you so fast.  An example comes to mind of the Annual Tour of a company I worked for.  The senior people would come out to all the regions and present the results from last year and this years strategy.  The meeting would last several hours and with no chance to do any processing.   I found them the most useless sessions even when the presenters were the best speakers.  Another thing that bugs me about those sessions was the power point presentations.  They were always way too busy and the presenter thought he had to talk about every bullet.  Do people not realize we can read! 

Enough bitching, I have some suggestions.  For the long presentations or speech, every twenty thirty minutes, I suggest you stop and suggest the people turn to their neighbour and talk about what they have heard so far for three minutes.  The energy in the room rises and the people really get engaged.  Even if you do not take comments at that point which might be a good idea, people are ready for more stuff.

On too wordy power point presentations (one of my pet peeves), when the slide comes up, allow the people to read the words, you read them as well, then talk about the important message.  DO NOT READ THE SLIDE TO THEM.   On your copy of the slides underline the things you want to emphasize and add some written notes.  Allow yourself three to five ideas per slide.  Another idea is to give the people impression that you are leading the presentation, make a note on your copy of the slide, a lead-in comment for the next slide.  Then bring the slide up and let them read, be quiet.  Then when you start talking again they can give you their undivided attention. 

Another good idea is to have the screen on the left side of the room and you in the centre.   Then after the people have read the slide, the naturally move their eyes to you. 

I will provide other helpful hints in later blogs.

  1. Jim Reply

    Thanks Maida for your comment. Your rule of thumb is excellent because it limits the number of slides someone uses for a presentation.
    I also think five lines per slide is a good approach.
    The problem these days is that people are using powerpoint presentations for multiple purposes. They use them for reports and handouts as well as presentation slides. I would suggest the approach there could be to limit the presentation slides to the headings and the handout the complete text. Of course most people think that is too much effort. Woe is me!
    Then people just read the slides which is even worse than reading a speech.

  2. Maida Reply

    On of the top pieces of advice for powerpoint presentations that I’ve been given is to limit oneself to no more than one slide per minute. Any more than that and it’s too busy or too much to absorb while still paying attention to the speaker.
    The best PowerPoint presentations add to the talk while not detracting from the speaker’s point. Used well it’s quite incredible how much it helps the audience to stay focused and engaged.

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