Even if your physical Presentation Skills are awesome, if you are an executive leading a smaller group discussion, you may need to sharpen your Facilitation Skills as well. Here’s what I mean.
1) Facilitate in smaller groups. Presentation Skills work great in a larger setting, especially if you are giving a speech at the annual meeting, or kicking off the fiscal year discussing company goals, etc. However, having meetings with smaller groups, your executive team, or different divisions of the company may require some facilitation skills that encourage feedback, discourse, and further discussion.
2) Set the stage properly. Let everyone know that you’ll be guiding the discussion for sure, but that this is not about “me telling you what to do”…rather, “I need/want your input”, “We’re in this together…we’re a team”…
3) Ask the group for their thoughts…but then PAUSE. Don’t answer the questions for the audience, but wait until someone says something. This trains the audience to get involved.
4) Try to be neutral and encourage all opinions. Don’t discourage someone if they have a different opinion than yours. If you kill an individual’s spirit you run the risk of killing the entire discussion.
5) Summarize and move the dialogue forward. A great technique is to summarize key points you’ve heard, and then move or transition to the next subject or gain some closure. PRO TIP: Keep in mind if you repeat what the group has told you, that doesn’t mean that you agree, and you can always summarize what YOU want to summarize…ultimately you are in control.
6) Thought starters for slow going moments. Sometimes when an executive asks opinions of a group or tries to engage an audience, the participants may think it is a trick, especially if this is a new mantra. So, always have a few questions or comments at the ready to kick-start the dialogue and promote further engagement. Something like, “The other day I was at our Denver office…and someone asked…”
7) Make a list of worst case scenarios ahead of time and contingency plans. When you open up a group for feedback, you run the risk of getting blindsided by tough questions, and this could lead to you feeling as though you’ve just been dropped into a big shark tank. Always, make a list of the potentially meanest/toughest comments and questions ahead of time with your specific answers and solutions to these issues dialed in. Although it may seem obvious, the clients I work with find this approach life-saving!
Contributed by Till Kahrs who has been a Business Communication Consultant for over 25 years. He is also a Keynote Speaker and has worked with over half of the Fortune 1000 and is a frequent guest on Television appearing on networks such as Fox National News and ABC TV. Kahrs is also the best-selling author of “Enhancing Your Presentations Skills”, an international business classic now also available as a Kindle or Nook E-book. Two of Kahrs’ most popular keynote topics are “Handling the Hot Seat” and “Speaking Successfully” which address in much greater detail some of the issues mentioned above.