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Making your audience feel like they're part of the solution

Two kids building together. Shutterstock Image ID 462740623.

Joe Stallings asked a great question during an Articulus Corporate Storytelling Workshop in Chicago last week:

"How do I engage the audience in co-creating the solution during my presentations?"

I gave an initial response but I continued to soak on his question for a few days. Here's a summary of my thoughts:

Persuasion isn’t a ‘one and done’ event. It is ongoing throughout the decision making process.

Early in the decision making process, your desired outcome for your presentation may be to collect specific information or feedback to be used to shape the final solution. That gives the audience a voice and truly lets them co-create. As you approach the final decision, your evidence should include how their input shaped the final solution.

The dialog is a critical part of each presentation. This allows them to share their own ideas, observations, and alternatives. You may need to debate your idea. And you should consider adapting your idea based on their feedback and to include some of their suggestions. In the end, not only do they feel they were part of the solution – they actually are. For more, read this HBR article.

Because audiences sometimes deeply connect with a frame, frames can give a sense of co-creation. Some frames (particularly diagrams) can pull in audience participation that amend your original thought. That’s gold. Other frames (particularly analogies and quotes) can become rallying cries for the audience as they take your message and spread it. Now it’s their message.

If you know someone in your audience has a relevant idea or experience, you can ask them directly to share it (think of this as an interactive piece of evidence in one of your Storyboard rows). Some caveats on this application:

  • Only ask questions you know the answers to.

  • You may want to tell them before the presentation that you will ask them a question about ____. That way they won’t feel on the spot.

Of course there are many ways outside a presentation to engage others in crafting a solution. But that's a discussion for another post.

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