PresentersIn the world of comedy, when a joke flops, they say the comedian “died” on stage. In the world of business, when a presentation flops, the presenter can be said to have “died” as well, in the meeting, if not on a stage. The comic can make fun of himself and recover. The presenter may never be able to recover.  What is the best way to avoid such an embarrassing (and costly} death?

“ABE” – Always Be Engaging  

The answer is to master the ability to stay constantly engaged with your listeners, whether in-person or online.  Then you will be as responsive as possible to their needs at every point in your argument. That ability to stay “in sync” with your audience is both a skill and an art. There are at least ten ways to engage with listeners. Here are three of them.

  • Set engagement expectations upfront  for a discussion, not a performance.  After you state your agenda, add in words to the effect, “Since I want to make the best use of your time, we can discuss the elements of the recommendation as we go through each of them.”
  • Follow through on that expectation After each block of information  Invite their thoughts, reactions, input, or perceived  application of what you are describing to their situation.
  • Let them choose  In many of your presentations, you often offer or explain a list of options, e.g. investment opportunities, advertising formats, special events, data scenarios, etc. Instead of you selecting the order in which you talk about these, ask your listeners to scan the list quickly and choose the one they would like to hear about first.  Then, you know you are talking about what they are really interested in. If you are smart, you will also open a discussion as to why they chose that item and likely learn lots more that can further align you with their goals.

Comedians Don’t Intend to Die. Neither Do Presenters.

These three engagement techniques are not difficult.  Yet, I see too few people using them effectively. Why is that? I think engagement reluctance is due to at three misguided beliefs:

  • Presenters feel it is safer not to engage. “I know my stuff. I have practiced it. If I just get through it, I won’t risk getting thrown off my storyline.
  • Presenters believe they know best what their listeners really need to know.  “I have seen this situation so many times before and I know that what we do is the perfect solution.”
  • Presenters have not been trained how to engage naturally with prospects and clients.

The solution to all three is a no-brainer: training and practice. The results will become self-evident almost immediately.

Performances Are Tough. Conversations Are Easy.

What is more boring than watching grass grow, paint dry or a comedian die on stage? Watching someone do a 15 or 30 minute presentation monologue.  If that is you or your team, it is time to get off automatic pilot, examine why this is happening, and correct it ASAP.


Anne Miller is a leading presentation and demo specialist, speaker, and coach who helps people in high stakes situations win business, sell ideas, and rally others to a cause. For more information and free ebook, visit www.annemiller.com