Archive for the ‘Facilitation’ Category

In my last post, I suggested starting a speech or presentation by polling the audience with two or three questions (Start with Polling Questions).  This is a good way to get immediate attention and learn valuable information about your audience.

I have something I need to add to that advice.

When polling an audience, the typical procedure is to ask for a show of hands.  By a show of hands, how many of you attended last year’s conference?

When you do this kind of polling, please process the results.  In other words, say something about the number of hands that have been raised.  Oh, good.  I see that most of you were here last year.

Too many speakers ask for a show of hands, but say nothing about the number of hands that go up.  They briefly look around the room and then immediately go on to their next point.  They neither comment on the number of hands nor interpret the significance of the number.

The response you get to a polling question is not just for your private observation and interpretation.  Share what you have learned and comment on its significance.

Oh, good.  I see that most of you were here last year.  That tells me you are familiar with this issue.  It was discussed in several of our 2009 sessions.

When people are asked to participate in a poll—even a simple “raise your hands” poll—they are naturally curious about the results and what to make of those results.

A common way to generate audience participation and to get some feedback is to ask “how many of you” questions.

By a show of hands, how many of you (fill in the blank)?

Particularly with big audiences, the responses you get provide only a rough sense of proportion (a big majority, a small minority, etc.).  And, the more such questions you ask the less reliable the responses become as people put less effort into raising their hand.

What if you want reliable, detailed feedback from a large audience throughout a presentation?  Let’s say, for example, you will be providing safety information and it will be important to check—in real time—for comprehension and an understanding of how to apply the information.  Repeatedly asking for a show of hands is not going to meet the need.

Consider renting a wireless, audience response system.  You will be able to provide each of your audience members with a keypad that can be used to answer multiple-choice questions.  People are far more inclined to repeatedly use these keypads than they are to repeatedly raise their hand.  Also, the response system immediately computes the results and shows them on the screen as part of your PowerPoint presentation.

The expense of such a system is not likely to fit your budget very often, but there are times when it is worth the investment.

I just finished preparing for a workshop on facilitation skills. 

The participants will be sales managers who are scheduled to deliver presentations and facilitate discussions at business meetings later this month.

I’m going to open the workshop with an observation: Most people do better presenting than they do facilitating.  Whether they are weaving discussion into a presentation or “opening up for discussion” after a talk, they don’t come across as prepared to facilitate as they were to present.

There’s a reason.  They are less prepared.

Almost all their preparation went into the presentation.  For the most part, the intended discussion is left to take care of itself.

In fact, a truly productive discussion requires a lot of thought and planning.  Otherwise, you just end up with much talk and little else.

In a workshop this weekend we were sharing ideas for how to best facilitate a discussion when presenting in a web conference.

One of the discussions revolved around the pros and cons of calling on someone specific for a comment.  An obvious worry was the awkward situation that would arise if the person was away from the phone or just not listening.

I liked the suggestion one experienced facilitator made.  If she faces silence after calling on someone specific she repeats the person’s name and continues with “It sounds as if your phone may be on mute, so let me come back to you and, in the meantime, would someone else have a thought?”

Wording like that would certainly minimize the awkwardness.

It made me think how smart it would be to work out a range of smart responses that you have ready for common situations that arise in web-based presentations.  Even if you don’t use them exactly as planned, the forethought will show up in how professionally you deal with potentially difficult situations.


Steele Presentation Coaching