When Slides Just Aren’t Right…

This from a recent attendee to a webinar:

We give lots of presentations for small groups. Our primary audiences are financial institutions where our product would be a good fit for their customer base, and we are trying to convince them to partner with us to offer our products.

In these meetings, we might be able to offer handouts, but not likely to be able to access a screen to have a “live” show. Sometimes, it is challenging to even crack open the deck as the audience members just don’t want it. Do we try to force it or just go with the flow?


Never, ever force a slide deck upon someone. The members of your audience are reluctant enough to sit through them on their own volition. The implicit formality of projected material makes it less than ideal for small meetings which tend to be more like conversations. While it is possible to create a scenario in which it is comfortable to show slides in that environment, it would require a willing partner. If the partner is not willing, it is never going to feel right.

Presenters in small gatherings should ALWAYS be prepared, ready, and able to speak off the cuff, off script, and without aids. From there, they could introduce them gradually, starting with one or two printed sheets, working up to a handout or leave behind. And maybe, in the course of conversation about a deep topic, you could flip open your notebook to show a visual that would help illuminate the topic.

But trying to get to the slide deck misses the real objective. In small meetings, eye contact is the promised land. You don’t want anything to take away from that while you are trying to engage and connect.


Follow up from the attendee:

In a small group, if you feel you need to hand something out to get the conversation going, would you hand out a two- or three-page summary for conversation, and then leave a more detailed presentation behind?


I would not hand anything out to “get the conversation going” — I would try to make that happen myself. Remember, you are the presentation. And in small groups, your eyes are everything.

Once going, then yes, I would be ready with a short summary, preferably by directing them to the summary section of the handout. I am unconvinced as to the wisdom of having two separate leave behinds, given the likelihood that one of them would be misplaced. My instincts would be toward a single handout with an executive summary in place.

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