Presentation Principle: Capitalize on the collective wisdom in the room.

Presentations aren’t just about the presenter and there are many reasons to maintain humility as a presenter. Certainly, it will endear you to the audience. Positioning yourself as a co-learner with your audience members, and not the only “expert” in the room opens up the possibility of having your presentations serve as learning experiences upon which you can build to advance your practice.

I first taught my course – Audience Engagement Strategies for Potent Presentations – as a pre-conference professional development course  at Evaluation 2015, the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association. This course became one of my favorite presentations ever.

Two interactive strategies during the course allowed participants to interact with each other, and also supplied me with important feedback.

Two Strategies for Crowdsourcing Audience Feedback

These strategies have in common the dual purposes of :

1.) Having participants share their prior knowledge and thinking with each other while they process and reflect on what they are learning, and

2.) Gathering ideas from participants that I can use to improve future iterations of the course.

Chart paper & sticky notes for crowdsourcing feedback during presentations

Strategy 1: Crowdsourcing Write and Stick. 

Admittedly, not the most creative strategy name, but it does convey the essence of how it is facilitated. With participants seated at tables,

1.) Distribute one large sticky chart paper to each table, along with a stack of small (3″x3″) sticky notes.

2.) Launch a question or prompt, and ask participants to write one idea per sticky note and stick notes anywhere on the chart paper.

3.) Give participants time to discuss responses at their tables, and then move the sticky notes around as they find patterns and discover categories. They can write headings on the chart paper, or use additional small sticky notes to generate category names.

4.) Post each chart on a wall and plan for a Gallery Walk, when participants have the opportunity to visit other charts and process and reflect as they discuss the ideas they read.

Index card writing on front, stickers on back for crowdsourcing feedback during presentations

Strategy 2: Quick check.

The idea for this originated with educator Paula Rutherford who calls her version “On My Mind.”

1.) Launch a question or prompt. This could be asking participants what they are thinking about most as you bring the session to a close, asking them to identify an action step they will take based on their new learning, etc. The key here is to make it something that they might be interested in knowing from each other, and something you want to know from them as well. Participants write one idea per card, and can use 2 or 3 cards if they need them.

2.) Distribute small dot stickers. I use the type teachers might put on charts, like these.  I cut up pages into strips so that each person has maybe 10-20 stickers. Unlike with dot voting, the number does not have to be exact.

3.) Have participants begin passing cards around the room to each other. This can be randomly, or you can devise a pattern to ensure every person sees every card.

4.) When a participant reads a card and the response on the card particularly resonates with them or they agree with it, they place a sticker on the back of the card and continue to pass it on. If the response doesn’t particularly appeal to them, they simply pass the card on without attaching a sticker.

5.) Collect all cards at the end. The result is that you now know what is on the minds of participants, but you also know something about which particular ideas or responses are shared among many participants.

Crowdsourced Feedback Supports Presentation Planning

These strategies relate to the presentation principle know your audience in that they give you good insight into participants’ prior knowledge, current thinking, and area(s) of focus. While they don’t necessarily give you insights you can use in the moment, they do support your planning for future audiences with similar backgrounds or interests.

Want more strategies for engaging audiences? Read these posts, then head over to the American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i) where you can download my Audience Engagement Strategy book. It’s free!

Do YOU have a favorite audience engagement strategy for presentations, or have you used either of these strategies? Please share your experience in the comments!

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