My job is most people’s biggest fear –public speaking. I have traveled around the world, spoken to tens and tens of thousands of people virtually and in person.Shared my ideas at TedX with some of the top organizations in the world. You’re watching this video because you might want to know how do you make presentations more interactive.

Probably you want to know how do you make your presentation more interactive. In this video, I’m actually going to pull out my iPad and share some freeze frames of actual presentations that I’ve given and share 3 secrets that helps me give really interactive engaging presentations.

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That is what I’m known for. I’m not a fan on of sage-on-the-stage, let-me-just-speak-at-you kind of learning. I believe that a presentation should feel more like a conversation and I can’t wait to share these 3 core ideas that the second you’re done watching this video, you can pick up and implement to make your presentations more interactive.

3 Core Ideas to Make Your Presentations More Interactive

Don’t Use Powerpoint

Secret number one is don’t use Powerpoint unless you really, really have to. Let’s dive in here. I make a practice of this and part of my intention in not using Powerpoint is everybody uses Powerpoint. If you use Powerpoint, it puts people’s brain in a certain mindset. It’s like, “Okay, let me be a consumer and not interact. I’m just going to soak in what they have to share.” Even if you are going to use a Powerpoint at least don’t start with a Powerpoint. Now, my alternative… Now, it’s really useful to have visuals to share with people. My alternative for that is using analog visuals. If I’m presenting virtually, I love holding up quotes to the screen that help frame up where we’re going or props that talk about your heart rate and as you public speak your heart rate probably increases.

You see how that is so much more visceral and memorable than just a Powerpoint? Here’s an actual picture for me and Will, my partner in crime at TedX talk where we were um there to actually facilitate interaction. You can see we’ve got these giant signs printed out. This is an idea that we talk about often. This idea of listening to understand. Isn’t important enough.  

If your ideas are important enough, consider printing them out. You can get stuff printed on cardboard relatively easily. When you do it, there’s just something that is more engaging about seeing that. Now, taking that another step further, sometimes I will actually break the fourth wall to promote interaction. Whether your presentation’s happening in a boardroom or conference room or a big stage with 8,000 people and that is this idea in theater that what happens on stage kind of stays on stage. You don’t really interact with the audience but the moment an actor or character performer or presenter turns to the stage and says, “Hey, you. You break the fourth wall.” Let’s actually just cue up this clip real quick while I talk over it of me actually taking. I was talking about the idea that we wanted in this conversation to take learning off of the stage and actually bring it into the audience inviting the audience’s perspective their contribution rather than just having the sage on the stage. You can see people’s reactions and responses to that fourth wall breaking. Their brains are in a very high focus high alert state when that fourth wall is actually broken. We’re going to be able to take this mindset of learning and all of the beautiful wisdom and knowledge that’s going to be up here on stage and take it off of the stage. Invite an interaction.  

Use Cards or Analog Props

Alright, secret number 2 is use cards or analog props that the audience can actually access. Touch and feel. For me, I’ve created a deck called We! Connect Cards that have really lovely questions on them that spark interaction and connection and engagement which is what I talk about and what I do when I’m working with a conference is actually create that cultural connection live in the moment. Going back to secret number 1, if it’s important enough, I printed out giant and bring it right on to stage with me. But using cards… One, you can use these cards there’s a free printable version on our website that you can grab in the link below or you can pick up a deck to actually use with your group to create connection before content. But you can also see in this picture right now. There’s another card that looks like the one I held up earlier with quotes on it.  

I love using these… This is comes from a deck of cards called We! Engage Cards. If you want to be more interactive and cards that are called engage cards seem like a pretty good idea. And they have quotes on one side and pictures on the other. They’re really, really useful to create shielded discussion. You know, if you want your presentation to be interactive, you’ve got to invite people to contribute rather than just consume material. I might lay out all those cards or if you don’t have the deck, lay out a bunch of images picture side face up and say, “Grab an image that represents one unique thing that you bring to this team.” You see how I’m making my presentation about them, not about me. Which rewind by the way um to the first idea of using uh analog and visual props. The first TedX talk I was ever invited to give, I did something a little bit edgy. I threw things at the audience. One thing you might not know or see from this video is that giving that first TedX talk was one of the most nervous times in my entire life. I would say that it was nervous because all before the talk, I was thinking about this person. All before the talk. Even into the first 30 seconds of the talk, I was totally focused on this person. At some point, I shifted my perspective and realized, “No, no. This is for the audience. This is for the group.”

Throwing that box into the audience was my way of really pulling them in and engaging them with that material. Now, in other videos, I’m talking about using cards. You could print out your own material depending on the group size if you’re not using these cards. The idea is that they having something tactical and tangible that’s prompting some sort of interaction or conversation is an amazing way to create shielded discussion that increases psychological safety and is really phenomenally interactive for a group. Another way that I utilize cards or you know things that are not on Powerpoint, things that are tangible you can touch. I was leading a workshop for a bunch of CEOs. I went to glass door and pulled a bunch of their reviews  offline and cut them out. Actually printed and cut out things that their actual employees said. In the group to make that presentation more interactive, I wanted to share with them why people stay at their companies and why people leave. I could have just told them that audibly but I knew that they were much much less likely to actually remember it and retain it and do  anything about it. What I did is I cut out those reviews and I said, “You’ve got 15 minutes sort these comments into 2 buckets to figure out why people are staying at your company and why they’re leaving.” Do you feel interactive that is? You got a bunch of people crowd around table sorting that out. You can do the same thing virtually using google jam board or some sort of a whiteboard. Create a bunch of sticky notes, have the groups sort them out into two different buckets. If you’re trying to teach definitions, you can have the words here and the definitions here and have the group get on the same vocabulary together, right? There are so many things you can do when you’ve got separable materials. That is secret number 2.


Third secret is popcorn. What? Take a look at this presentation. I was in columbia invited to give a keynote at the global youth entrepreneurship summit. Look at the background. Whoa! How do you create that interaction? How do you create that engagement when oftentimes in presentations when we say “any questions?” there are no hands raised? How do you create that  engagement? My most simple tool is the popcorn method. The popcorn method very simply is the best way to avoid awkward silence. I would say the best way to avoid awkward silence is to create productive silence. If you think about popcorn, right? You put it in the microwave it’s quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet and then pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop! You always want to open the microwave before it burns. That’s the idea as in a presentation, if you’re inspiring interaction, you want to end the party while it’s still fun. Don’t wait for responses beyond the time that the group is actually having a good time. That is not going to be useful to your group. Popcorn method very simply. I actually use my hands to gesture like this. I say… I ask them all the audience all one question. Let’s say I asked them, “What did you notice about the conversations you just had?” Or “What did you notice about the last 3 slides that I just shared?” Or “What stuck out to you about the last 10 minutes of what I shared with you?” I say, “I’m going to give you 10 seconds to think of your own response to that.” Then what I’d love to do is just popcorn out a handful of answers really quick answers.” I do this because if I don’t, one person might raise their hand and just go talk for like 2 minutes. What I’d rather do is get 10 voices or so in the room just really quick snapshots.

You’ve got 3 secrets. Don’t use Powerpoint at all, Ideally and if you really have to, don’t use it  for the first few minutes of your presentation. Kick off with a question. If you can use cards or some separable thing that people can actually touch and get virtually. One of the ways I’ll do that is inviting people to go grab an image off of google images and paste the link into the chat. They’re interacting with some they’re actually doing something. Because if the group’s not doing anything then they’re not interacting. You might be interesting but they’re not actually interacting. Then the popcorn method which really simply is let them think, ask them a question, let them think and then get a whole bunch of responses. Now, the advanced version of the popcorn method is that I love to do that you might be comfortable doing you might not be is riffing off what the audience says. I think the best presentations contain an element of  improvisation where I hear something from the audience and then I share a story off that or  a stat that I read or some research or share something that I know about that particular topic or subject and we kind of chase that rabbit hole. Just for 30 seconds to a minute and then we come back. That is how a presentation becomes a conversation. Again, if you’d like any of these tools, you can grab links in the description to grab free downloadable printable versions that  you can use with your group. You can also pick up the actual boxes on amazon and on our website.

We’ve got a whole Connection Toolkit packed with stuff to make it easy. If you are looking to  make your next workshop professional development conference really interactive really engaging, drop me a line. There’s some information below about booking. Happy to have a chat. I will say that the majority of my work anymore is virtual. I used to travel all over the world to do this work. I’ve got a little creature here on the planet. I realized that not only do I love presenting virtually but I can create the same impact breaking people out on Zoom helping people connect through pixelated worlds. If you’ve got something virtual coming out,  we’d love to have a chat as well. Hope you enjoyed this video.



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