Interaction: The Key to Successful Presentations

By | June 6, 2023

You have an important presentation to make. How will you measure its success?

The goals for some presenters are misguided: “I just want to get through it” or “I don’t want to forget anything.” These goals miss the mark.

Success is best measured with audience-centric goals. “I want my audience to learn;” “I want my audience to be inspired;” “I want my audience to change.” In truth, the highest goal of any presentation is integration of information. A presentation is successful only if an audience both retains the information and applies it or integrates it into their lives.

Failed presentations are costly to organizations. Consider the billions of dollars that are lost every year because audiences fail to adopt a new approach or refuse to be persuaded. How much time and money are wasted delivering or repeating a failed presentation?

Considering what is at stake, presenters and adult-educators should familiarize themselves with the proven assumptions of adult-learning, also known as andragogy. Our presentations will succeed when we consistently craft our messages and delivery styles to fit how adults learn and integrate information. By using at least a few of the following proven assumptions of adult learning (andragogy) to create interaction in your next presentation or meeting, you can maximize attention, buy-in, and retention.

Malcolm Knowles has popularized the following andragogical assumptions[i]:

The Need to Know. Adult learners need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.

Learner self-concept. Adults need to be responsible for their own learning decisions and to be treated as capable of self-direction.

Role of Learners’ experience. Adult learners have a variety of life experiences, which represent the richest resource for learning.

Readiness to learn. Adults are ready to learn those things they need to know in order to cope effectively with life situations.

Orientation to learning. Adults are motivated to learn to the extent that they will perceive it will help them perform tasks they confront in their life situations.

Learning and integration are more likely to occur when adult learners recognize the relevance of material and have the opportunity to discuss their experiences as they relate to the material. Consequently, successful presenters actively draw out the past, present, and future experiences of their audience. This type of interaction makes it easier to establish the relevance and applicability of new information or proposed actions.

This explains why audiences prefer discussion-based presentations that are highly interactive, as well as why they dread attending the didactic “show-up and throw-up” type presentation.

The bottom line is that integration occurs best through interaction.

[i] Knowles M S (1990) The Adult Learner: a Neglected Species (4th Edition) Houston: Gulf Publishing