What to Say When the Audience Disagrees with You

Have you ever had an audience member disagree with you while you were presenting?

I have. I was conducting a workshop at Microsoft with about 15 students, reviewing the research on bullet points. Someone in the audience raised their hand, sputtering “I have to interrupt. If I showed a slide of bullet points, I’d get kicked out of the room.” All audience eyes were on me. What would I say?

What would YOU say?

 

Don’t get into a confrontation. Instead, follow this three-step process.

1. Get Excited! First, respond in a positive tone “I’m glad you brought that up!” (bonus points if you use their name – “I’m glad you raised that point, Carol!”). The confronter is expecting an argument so you disarm them when you respond positively. Others in the audience become tense when a confrontation appears to be brewing but will relax when you show you’re still in control.

2. Ask if others feel the same way. Use this phrase “Let’s talk about that! What do others think?” Now, you’ve directed the conversation away from the confrontational speaker and opened it to everyone in the room.

3. React to the entire audience. You can maneuver out of hostile waters, based on how the audience reacts. There are three possible reactions: dead silence, disagreement with the confronter, agreement with the confronter.

If there is dead silence, the confronter now senses they are alone in their opinion. Say “This might be more specific to your situation. I’d be glad to talk about it with you at the next break.”

If people disagree with that speaker, you can build momentum to reinforce your point and to quiet the dissenter. Gather 2-3 supportive comments, then restate your position and supporting research.

If others agree with the confronter, you need to stop and listen to their concerns. Maybe they misunderstood you and you can clarify your point. Maybe they have valid concerns! You aren’t convincing anyone if you keep going, so consider this a blessing that you’ve uncovered an objection. Hit the ‘b’ button on the PowerPoint (to black out the screen) and step into the audience to facilitate a discussion. Say seriously, “Let’s talk about that” then take comments from the audience. Keep directing the conversation to the most reasonable voices in the room.

In my situation at the Microsoft workshop, I put on a big smile and said “I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s talk about that!” then I strode into the audience and said “What do the rest of you think?”

There was stunned silence, then someone offered haltingly, “I don’t think it’s so bad”. Another opined “It’s better than some slides, where they have like 20 bullet points in 12-point font.” Someone else offered “I don’t think anyone would kick you out of the room. I’ve seen some pretty horrible slides but no-one has ever been kicked out. Sometimes, they should have been.”

There was some laughter in the room. The air seemed to go out of the confronter’s voice as she sullenly maintained “Well, I would never show a slide like that.”

I restated the research and said “Ultimately, you have to decide what you’re most comfortable with. But I wanted you to be armed with the facts to make that decision.” Then I resumed the workshop, having sidestepped a potentially contentious conversation.

So, keep this technique in mind the next time someone in the audience raises their voice to disagree with you.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Quit Boring your Audience: the Best Way to Get them Interested

The typical advice to presenters is almost guaranteed to bore your audience to death: think about what you want the audience to think/feel/do differently after your presentation.

Well meaning advice. But completely wrong.

We’ve all been to those presentations, haven’t we? The presenter tries humor, storytelling, hyperbole and other techniques to get you to care. But their agenda is transparent: it’s all about what they want.

If there’s a “what’s in it for me” for the audience, it’s not a sincere interest in you. It’s merely an angle to lure you over to the speaker’s way of thinking. This guarantees the talk will be intended to serve one person’s needs: the speaker’s. Boring!

Here’s a better approach: Take a pen and write two lists on your whiteboard. On the left, list everything you want to talk about. On the right, list everything your audience wants you to talk about.

Now, circle everything that is on both lists. That’s what you talk about.

The stuff that’s only on your list? It’s a self-indulgent monologue. Your audience will be bored.

The stuff only the audience wants to talk about? That’s out of scope for this presentation. Either add it to your list if you decide it’s important. Or, set expectations with the audience that you won’t be covering that in your talk.

Or, do something really radical. Start by writing the audience’s list first. After all, you are presenting for the audience’s benefit, right? Start with a sincere and selfless “what’s in it for them” and you’ll have a sure winner.

Bonus: they will be more likely to think/feel/do something different afterward.

Now you have a topic list your audience wants to listen to. It’s time to write your presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Steve Jobs Unveils iCloud Reading (Gasp!) Text Slides

Presentation guru Steve Jobs would never unveil iCloud reading the text right off his slides. Would he? Fast forward to (3:17-3:55) and (6:10-6:47) and see for yourself.

Isn’t that what SourPointers say is a cardinal sin: reading your slide text? If there’s text on the slide, say SourPointers, just send us the slides and cancel Steve’s presentation.

This so-called cardinal sin is completely wrong (see The “Mayer Myth” Busted). In fact, short slide text reinforces your key points and you should read it verbatim so people know which point you’re covering. It would be worse if Steve’s words did not match the slide text, like this presenter:

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

7 Predictions for Presentation Design

Someone recently emailed me and asked this intriguing question: what trends do you see in presentation design in the next 1-3 years?

I thought the question was thought-provoking so I list below the 7 trends I see in presentation design.

1. More storytelling, less slides. Books like Resonate and The Naked Presenter are encouraging speakers to depend less on slides and more on the power of storytelling. Many presentations, especially those intended to motivate and pass on values, are more effective without any slides at all.

2. Stock photography is the new clip art. I think we’re all growing fatigued of slides that are gorgeous but clearly “posed”. It’s hard to be truly inspired by stock photography, with its too-perfect imagery and too-happy people. We crave reality and so we’ll see increased use of Creative Commons images to replace stock photography.

3. Tablets and scribbling. The rise of the iPad and other tablet computers will replace pure laptops and so speakers will interact with their presentations more by scribbling annotations on slides as they speak. They will increasingly start out with a blank presentation slide and build it as part of a conversation with the audience, like using a flipchart or whiteboard.

4. More focus on effectiveness, less on design, starting in education. The pendulum has swung too far to the creative side of the equation where we’re pumping out beautiful but low-content slides like you see on SlideShare. This won’t work, especially in education. Teachers will increasingly demand rules for using PowerPoint that are based on instructional research. This will spread, first to business and then to other types of speakers.

5. PowerPoint continues to replace text documents. The trends that are driving adoption of PowerPoint as a business document will continue to push text documents out of business: complex problems, increased availability of data and the tools to analyze it, information overload.

6. Increased interest in developing PowerPoint slides for online marketing. SlideShare is mostly used today by small businesses and thought leaders with a lot of time on their hands. But increasingly, businesses will see the value of creating SlideShare decks to increase interest in their products. The rules for SlideShare decks are different than the rules for training decks, business decks and keynote decks and there will be some floundering around while we figure out the rules. Someone will write a book targeting this niche interest.

7. Video, motion. With tools like Prezi, YouTube videos and even Adobe After Effects, it’s becoming easier to enhance static slides with motion. But the phrase “enhance” is loaded. Does this mean enhance the meaning? Or simply add ornamentation? My prediction is people will fumble with these new tools at first, adding glitz to their presentations without enhancing the meaning. And over time, they will learn to use motion effects with restraint and even some wisdom.

What are your predictions for presentation design in the next 1-3 years? Leave a comment below.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

The Foundation For All Great Presentations – Plan On Paper First

Carmine Gallo posted the best PowerPoint tip you’ll ever get on the Forbes.com blog today. And, in truth, this advice is so simple and so profound, it will forever change the way you build presentations – if only you’ll follow it.

The advice: plan your deck on paper first.

This simple – even humble – piece of advice really is the foundation for all great presentations. I’ve even developed the Mindworks Method planning grid to help business managers plan better decks.

This advice will result in better decks for a number of reasons.

1. Uncover your story. I’ve written extensively on this blog about the power of storytelling. But an unorganized heap of graphs and schematic diagrams is not a story. When you plan on paper, using a storyboard, you figure out your broad strokes first: what is my message, what are the 3-4 key points I want to hit, what point will I hit first, second. Only after you know these things are you ready to start building slides.

2. Saves you time. You’ll eliminate all that time you waste building slides, playing with different images, playing with fonts and colors, only to realize you don’t really need this slide. Sometimes that slide is simply deleted. Sometime, you can’t bear to delete it – you spent so much time on it! So it goes into the appendix.

3. Avoids the PowerPoint defaults. Whenever someone blames PowerPoint for their use of bullet points, I always ask “you did plan on paper first, right?” If you plan on paper, you aren’t channeled toward bullet points but begin by thinking about the major points you want to hit on each slide, which often leads to thinking more visually.

4. Great collaboration tool. It’s easier to get together in a room with other folks and plan a presentation when you whiteboard it first – what is the main point we want to hit, what are the main support points, etc (like point #1 above). This avoids the common “Franken-deck” approach, where you say “Karl, you take the first 3 slides on the market size. Karen, you take a couple of slides on the partner channel. I’ll add the product slides.”

5. You’ll end up with better decks faster. I use notepaper to plan PowerPoint decks, which have several advantages. They are about the dimensions of a PowerPoint slide. You are forced to write one simple idea on each slide and not depend on 8-point font to make your point. You can quickly – in about 30-60 minutes – draft a 30-slide deck. You can lay your notepaper out and see how the story flows. You can rearrange slides to improve the story flow. You can see where your story is falling apart and improve it. You can throw slides away before you make the mistake of building them.

This one change is the foundation for better presentations. Don’t underestimate just how important and profound is this advice. It may make the difference between a good and a great presentation the next time you open PowerPoint.

But only if you actually do it.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.