Your Best Low-Tech Presentation Tool

A great presentation is measured by how effectively you engage your audience.

In this issue we will explore how using a flip chart can positively impact your presentation outcomes. Feel free to forward this to others who might find it useful. I missed last month’s newsletter due to our families expected arrival of another boy. Everything is going well and thanks for your patience.

Unlike formal lectures, most presentations benefit from group participation. The most frequently used technique to enourage dialogue is the phrase “Any questions?”

Imagine this scenario:

  • You finish up a point and proclaim “Are there any questions?”
  • People raise their hands and ask a few.
  • You answer and move on.

For the most part, you have fulfilled the unspoken contract between speaker and audience to provide opportunities for interaction. Groups expect to be able to ask questions, make comments or just show off among their peers.

But what happens to the answers you provide? Where do they go? Frequently, they only become part of a one-on-one dialogue, with presenters fending off concerns that satisfy only one individual at a time.

Now picture this scenario:

  • You say “Any questions?”
  • Someone raises their hand and asks a question.
  • You write the question on a flip chart and ask the group to think about it before providing an answer.

What have you done? Fundamentally, you’ve shifted the focus of the dialogue. It’s no longer one-on-one but an opportunity for the entire group to reflect and better participate in the answer. But what if the question is not relevant to the group? What if it’s just a private concern? Well, why are you spending time on it in the first place?

Point #1: The flip chart will keep you honest
Presenters are expected to be good listeners. In reality, we’re like everyone else in the room, thinking about what’s for lunch or who we need to call on the break. Using the flip chart forces us to be better listeners because writing down a point requires translating an idea for everyone. The questions and comments then become accessible to the entire group.

If you can’t find a reason to broaden a question or comment for the larger group, maybe you shouldn’t be spending time on it in the first place.

Point #2: The flip chart helps you handle difficult situations
Imagine you’re having a verbal exchange with a participant and they won’t let it go. You need to move on but don’t want to be rude and interrupt. Adding to your difficulty is this person doesn’t take a breath. What can you do?

Walk over to the flip chart and turn pages one-by-one back to the agenda. (Assuming you wrote down an agenda) Everyone will be wondering what you’re doing. When the blue in the face participant takes a breath, do one of three things:

  1. Relate what they’re saying to a topic you’re discussing later.
  2. Repeat their statement and point out that it’s not part of the agenda.
  3. Thank them for their comment and move on.

Your non-verbal action (flipping pages) tells everyone you’re about to do something different. You’re asserting your right to regain control of the conversation in a respectful way. I’ve even flipped to blank pages with no plan except to let people know it’s time to move on. It works.

Point #3: The flip chart takes the attention off you and puts it on the subject matter
For presenters who are uncomfortable with eyes continuously watching their every move, using the flip chart can alleviate this problem. Try this simple technique at the beginning of your next talk.

Write the following three things on a flip chart before the session begins:

  • Your name
  • Your role or position
  • What you hope to accomplish

At the beginning of the presentation, ask people to introduce themselves and answer the three questions. Watch their eyes as they introduce themselves. They will repeatedly look back to the chart, referencing their response to what they’re reading. The flip chart becomes an aid for your participants to speak out. Once you observe how this helps facilitate better dialogue between you and the group, you’ll be inclined to do it more frequently.

In conclusion, flip-charts are everywhere. They’re mobile, they help focus your group’s attention and can be used in situations where you want to regain control. Get used to this low tech tool and you’ll never go back to doing your presentation alone again.