Less information, more context, more interactivity

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While the information for Microsoft’s Developer Webcast of September 2020 could be said to be appropriate for developers, the reality is that very little of it was put into truly meaningful context for the audience.

The webinar’s structure did not have a clear beginning, middle and end. It introduced an agenda with nine items. From there, it was a march through the agenda, punctuated more than seventy times by the words “next slide, please.”

On a macro level, nine agenda items is at least five or six too many. At a micro level, each of the nine presentations also contained too much verbal and written information to be memorable.

In addition, the information for the webinar as a whole and the individual pieces within it were not put into context. Most of the nine presentations simply said “here it is.” They would have better served the audience by focusing on “this is why our platform is important to you” or “here is how our approach can help.”

The one exception was Prince Bajracharya’s presentation about the Digital Marketing Center. He didn’t simply say “I’m going to talk about the Digital Marketing Center.” He told us how they “are building this platform for small- and medium-sized businesses to help them grow their business.”

A simple statement like this at the beginning of a presentation—and indeed the webinar itself—helps the audience put what follows into better perspective. Something like it should be at the start of every presentation and, indeed, at the start of the webinar itself.

To close this portion of the review, I’d like to point out that all of the presenters deserve a pat on the back. It’s tough to deliver your ideas to a small room, let alone the whole wide world via the web. It’s even more difficult when your first language isn’t English. And for a number of the presenters, this was the case.

However, all of the presenters were clear and understandable. They represented themselves and their organization in a very professional manner.

How to improve
Let’s talk about the ways in which this webinar could be improved.

First, limit the “agenda” to three items that create a clear story with a beginning, middle and end. Write that story out in six to eight sentences at the start of the planning process. For example:

We’re here to talk to you about how current and upcoming features of Microsoft’s advertising platform can improve your productivity and enhance the results you generate for yourself or your clients.

By the end of this hour, our goal is to convince you to apply these features to make our platform your number one choice for advertising opportunities.

To do that, we’re going to talk about:

  • How our platform can save you time.
  • How the platform can help you grow your business.
  • How you can generate meaningful reports to demonstrate your success.

In conclusion:

  • Because our platform can save you time …
  • Because our platform can help you grow your business, and …
  • Because our platform can generate meaningful reports to demonstrate your success …

We are here to help you make our platform your number one choice for advertising initiatives.
I’ve made assumptions about the content here, but I’m sure you get the point.

Second, the information within each presentation should be reduced by half. For example, if one of the three sections above is allocated fifteen minutes, the presenter(s) should do no more than eight minutes of actual “presenting.” This allows time for them to pause, which aids audience understanding and retention, and to answer questions from the audience along the way.

And that brings us to the third suggestion for improvement. I was delighted when the webinar’s host said a number of times that they wanted to be interactive and answer questions. I was disappointed when not a single question was answered during the webinar.

Yes, I understand that questions may have been answered via direct text. But while everyone’s texting, can they be listening? And if nobody’s listening, what on earth is the point?

A good moderator could and should bring questions from the audience to the webinar. That way, everyone has the opportunity to learn from the curiosity and questions of others.

If one person’s asking, many more are wondering.

By constantly applying the ten-pushup rule, presenters can answer questions clearly and concisely, keeping the presentation on time and on track.

Bringing questions from the audience includes them in the conversation. It keeps them interested and engaged. It is truly interactive.

If interactivity is your goal (and shouldn’t it always be?), it’s meaningful to borrow a quote from Forrest Gump’s mama, “interactive is as interactive does.”

Answering questions during any presentation, like a webinar, is the secret sauce to doing this effectively.

Click here to view this presentation and judge for yourself.

New book encourages less presentation, more conversation
Cover of the book One Bucket at a Time.
The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

"For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

John Sweller, PhD
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia

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