A presentation can be an amazing tool, but only when it’s used correctly. Presentations are most effective when you need to persuade a group of people to change their behavior. Presentations are often a one-way street: information flows from the presenter to the audience.
But what happens when you need to bring a group to consensus or make a decision based on some shared information? Formal presentations don’t allow for enough back-and-forth to accomplish these goals.
Instead, consensus-building and decision-making events are perfect opportunities for informed conversations, meaning conversations in which all the participants have access to a common set of information.
Conversations give participants the ability to build on your ideas instead of simply receiving them.
The verbal back-and-forth of challenging and defending, resisting and accepting, and creating and destructing, refines the idea while helping you build credibility by showing your command of the content.
As a result, informed conversations can help you build consensus and erode resistance to an idea. These benefits are the reasons why several notable executives, including Sir Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, and Jeff Weiner, have called for an increased emphasis on conversations.
Instead of presenting, we’ve found that everyone can get up to speed quickly if you give them information beforehand, or allow 10 minutes at the beginning of the meeting for people to read a slidedoc. Then, each person is fully informed for the discussion. Plus, they can refer to the materials as they discuss the issues.