A few months ago I gave a talk to the SUNY Albany Entrepreneurship class that my good friend teaches. We had been discussing previous talks, some of which went better than others. The best ones, we agreed, were interactive and conversational. I had the idea to cut my entire presentation down to one slide, the slide that I typically reserve for questions at the end.
So, somewhat nervously, I got up in front of a class of 45 students, briefly introduced myself and then put up this slide:
I asked them what they wanted to hear me talk about. I was happy to talk about anything on that list or answer any question they had about what it’s been like for me to graduate, leave my job, and run our business.
What ensued was over an hour of discussion about every topic on that list and then some. Almost everyone in the class participated. Prof Wales acted as a moderator of sorts, asking questions, expanding upon answers, adding in information about what the latest research says about a topic. We stopped mid-conversation because we ran out of time. We probably could have kept going for another hour!
We’ve since chatted about why this worked so well. No one likes to sit through a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation. The topic has to be really interesting and the presenter has to be really good. Instead, I basically said, “I was in your shoes, I run a business now, ask me anything.” And they did. In part because that’s probably not an approach that they’ve encountered before. I try really hard to be authentic and answer every question honestly, and I think that also helped fuel the conversation because it (hopefully) made them even more comfortable to ask me things they typically don’t get a chance to ask.
The other aspect of this type of presentation that’s wonderful is that I have significantly less prep work. Instead of memorizing and practicing, I can just show up and be myself…which probably results in a better, more authentic talk anyway. I’m planning on updating the slide each time after the fact based upon the conversation, but otherwise there’s effectively no prep work.