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July 10, 2019


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Taryn Vian

I had a similar experience. I was giving a teaching seminar for faculty audience (I thought). Turns out 4-5 people who came were Deans, and they interrupted immediately and constantly. I had planned just a 20 minute presentation with plenty of time for questions, but it was not to be. I had a hard time adapting on the fly. These tips are helpful for next time!


I think we all develop our own style for these things over time and experience.

I always aim to circulate a slide pack with the headline points in advance of presenting.

Then, when I start my presentation, I can ask if the audience would prefer I ran through the slides or address any specific questions they may have first.

If they want to focus on areas of interest, having a copy of the presentation printed with slide numbers allows me to jump to specific slides where relevant - using them as the visual aids they were designed to be.

It seems to help the audience feel more like active participants, rather than recipients of what I want to say.

Personally, I also find presentations much less stressful if I treat them as a conversation with an interested peer (though I appreciate that would be entirely unsuitable in some situations).


To put very simply:
Answer questions immediately when possible. Because that is what the querist wants to know.


In my experience, most executives don't have time for long, in-depth presentations. Rule 1 is consider who you're presenting to and tailor the presentation to suit their needs.

I agree with Walker's advice to ask the audience up front if they have any questions before you start. If time is limited, you could open by asking the audience to hold questions until the Q&A period at the end, but you risk people forgetting what they wanted to ask. I prefer Walker's suggested approach of sending slides ahead of time and starting w/ Q&A because it's more interactive and helps you ensure your message is actually being received.

I also agree that the presenter is the show, the slides are just a prop.

Business Writing Blog

Thank you for your comments, Taryn, Walker, Nilima, and Anita. I am away from my computer and will respond in detail tomorrow.


Business Writing Blog

Taryn, thank you for sharing your helpful cautionary story. It may help readers here try to figure out who actually will be in their audiences. Though painful, your experience will help you (and perhaps others) prepare you for next time.

Walker, thank you for telling us about your excellent strategy. I do not know others who share slides in advance and then ask the audience how to proceed. Brillant!

Nilima, I agree. People do not want to wait for answers. But if they can be guaranteed that their question will receive a better, more thorough response if they wait a few minutes, they may be patient.

Anita, good points. I agree with your thinking.


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