The charismatic executive was cool, clear, and articulate as she launched the organization's new business strategy to 500 employees. She had planned to engage the audience, so immediately after her powerpoint presentation, she asked if anyone had any questions. There was dead silence. She waited for a long two uncomfortable seconds... still no questions. "Surely, you have some questions," she stated in a slightly perturbed voice tone. One person sheepishly raised his hand and asked a question that she then answered. "Anymore questions? OK. Thanks for your attention." They all applauded, but people left with a lot of concerns and unanswered questions that were later discussed in the bathrooms and hallways.
I have seen many great speakers experience the audience "dead zone." Facilitating large group interaction calls for a very different skill set than giving a speech or meeting with a small group. It requires reading the group, scanning the non-verbals of the participants, and creating a safe environment for interaction. It's scary enough for most people just to speak in a group of 500 colleagues, but it's even more frightening to interact with a high-ranking officer in front of a large audience.
Here are some tips for getting the most effective interaction from a large group during a presentation.
What have you done or seen in large group presentations that worked well in creating effective audience participation?