How To Be an Engaging Presenter
I’ve been privileged to co-present with good friend, Allison Carter of Roundpeg, several times this year. If you don’t know Allison, you should; she’s a talented and passionate person. One of the best things about our presentations is what I learned.

Last year, we discussed co-presenting about taking networking from on-line to off-line, from the perspective of a young introvert and an old-ER extrovert. We talked about it, outlined the presentation, and role-played. Then we role-played some more. We put enough thought and effort into the presentation to make it look effortless.

What’s the Key to Presenting?

One of the keys to our presentation was engaging the audience in networking. Near the end of the presentation, we had people change seats, introduce themselves, and gave them a couple questions to ask each other. At our Richmond Social Media Breakfast, ECI Social Media Group, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, and my TEDx Fort Wayne presentations, we had similar results with this technique — we were forced to interrupt their conversations to continue our presentation. As well, people would stay after our presentation to continue their chats.

Sharing the Credit

I’ve mentored and trained presenters who conduct meetings to not just stand in front and lecture, but one of the best engaging presentations I’ve seen was Vince Robisch, last year, at Blog Indiana 2011. His presentation about blog titles, “This Session Speaker Smells Fantastic” rocked. He had an entire room engaged in writing and sharing suggested blog topic titles. We attempted to apply what we learned from Vince to our presentations.

The Master Plan

We arrived early and networked with attendees as they arrived. We asked what expectations they had. What would help them? How do they use social networks? What networking challenges did they face, and what successes might they share?

We customized our presentation for the audience from what we learned prior, and through pre-qualifying attendees early in the presentation.

We asked open-ended questions — who, what, when, where, why, and how throughout the presentation. Sometimes, simply changing a question from, “Are there any questions?” to “What questions do you have?” made a difference.

We called on participants who had shared with us.

We shook things up by distributing numbered action sheets, then asking attendees with odd numbers to switch seats (group engagement).

We gave assignments. Ours was simply having the participants ask each other, “How can I help you?”

After giving the assignments, Allison and I stood at the front of the group, smiling at the engagement we observed. Eventually, we learned to set time limits, or we’d run out of time. So, what did we learn about presenting? If you want to be an engaging presenter, engage your audience. Don’t talk AT them – talk WITH them. Now go have fun.