Why You Need to Stop Using Interactive Presentations
Interactive presentations are supposed to engage and inspire your teams, but the truth is most aren’t interactive. Here’s why you should stop using “traditional” interactive presentations.

How effective are your employee presentations?

Do you think the message is getting across, or are people going to sleep?

We’d all love to think we can do a great job of engaging an audience, but it’s not an easy thing. It’s a completely normal response that people drift in and out of attention.

There are some things you can do to greatly improve engagement and therefore the retention of information from your presentations. Let’s take a closer look:

Is your audience really engaged?

The premise of this article is about “interactive presentations,” which theoretically should get you better engagement. The fact is that those types of presentations we’ve traditionally considered to be more interactive often aren’t very interactive at all.

Have you heard of “death by Powerpoint?” Most of us have sat through an excruciating Powerpoint presentation (the lucky ones will have done so multiple times!). Powerpoint is one of those tools touted to improve engagement, but it, and other tools like it, really can’t be called interactive. 

They still largely involve an audience sitting passively, while someone talks to them and flicks through slides. Think about how we engage with content these days; we browse our social media channels, read posts, and engage via “likes,” shares, or comments – people are becoming more conditioned to pay attention when they can somehow involve themselves with the content, which just doesn’t happen with Powerpoint and similar tools.

Of course, there are methods to liven up Powerpoint presentations, but they’re not perfect. Have you ever jolted back to consciousness when a presenter started asking questions, only to be unsure of what they were just talking about?

Powerpoint presentations can also divide attention. People often end up either focusing on the speaker or on the slide. If a presenter is simply reading a slide, then there doesn’t seem to be much point to it…

Many presentations that claim to be interactive aren’t really at all Click To Tweet

Signs of disengagement

How can you tell if your audience has become disengaged?

  • They are texting, side-talking, or doodling
  • There is complete silence and no one responds, even to the bits that are meant to be funny
  • They show closed body language, an indication that the audience is not receptive (an engaged audience will lean forward, nod, smile, or change facial expressions as they consider the presentation)
  • The same question gets asked multiple times, or people ask things that should have been clear from the presentation
  • People are actually nodding off (it happens!)
  • Nothing changes after your presentation, which suggests people didn’t get it (where the aim of the presentation was to make changes)

The science of audience engagement

The question is, what does engage an audience? Is there any kind of formula, or data backed by behavioral science?

To start with, the science on attention spans is cloudy, however many believe that the typical adult attention span is declining. We live in a world with a lot of noise and distractions, whilst contending with things like mobile phone addiction to further misdirect us. While we can’t make any conclusions as to a “typical” adult attention span, a general consensus with any sort of presentation is to start with a bang. You have to engage from the beginning to keep people with you.

Storytelling is a time-proven attention-getter. Each generation since our distant ancestors has used storytelling to entertain, to engage and to get important messages across. Presentation methods like Powerpoint just don’t have the same effect on our brains, as this Harvard article highlights:

“We’ve all listened to (and suffered through) long PowerPoint presentations made up of bullet points – bullet points that may be meaningful to the presenter, but lack the same punch for the audience. Even if the presenter is animated, when we hear information being ticked off like this, the language processing parts in our brain, known as Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, get to work, translating those bullet points into story form where we can find our own meaning. The problem with this, however, is that the story we come up with in our mind may not be the same one the speaker is intending to convey through data.”

The answer is to deliver those same facts within a story. When we listen to a good story, researchers have found that more different areas of the brain light up than just the areas responsible for language processing – our brains behave as though we were experiencing the story. 

Another engagement factor with multiple studies behind it is gamification. Gamification involves injecting game-like elements into business presentations or marketing strategies. A simple “game” used by your local coffee shop might be to gather stamps on your card to earn a free coffee. Gamification has been looked at in the context of e-learning, online programs and consumer engagement, among others. The conclusion is that gamification helps to trigger real and powerful human emotions, and therefore engagement. Here’s why gamification works:

  • It gives users control – they’re not just a passive observer
  • Games can reinforce good behavior (for example, with rewards)
  • Games can give people a sense of achievement that keeps them engaged
  • Games speak to our love of setting and achieving goals
  • Games can tap into our competitive nature
  • Games can be a form of exploration and escape

You could say that gamification represents the ultimate in interactive presentations. It gives people the ability to participate and take some form of control for their learning. It can tap into aspects of storytelling as well, providing an overall engaging experience.

How escape room technology can help

Companies have many different ongoing needs for presentations, including for hiring, onboarding, and training. If you’re looking to kill “death by Powerpoint,” then escape room technology provided by EscapeEd can help.

Game-based simulations and exercises are both interactive and entertaining for your teams. They can encourage teamwork as well as revealing the character of individuals within the team. Managers can participate, or can watch and offer more specific feedback or guidance. Of course, this style of exercise is fun for the participants as well! Fun is always a good way to engage people.

Many companies have looked at the benefits of escape rooms and have taken groups of employees to external sites for team building and training exercises. This can be a time-consuming and costly exercise, although of course it is beneficial for engagement.

EscapeEd brings the technology to companies, allowing you to run an escape room-type activity in your office through the devices you already use. Individuals or teams can use personal devices to solve challenges and complete tasks.

It works by providing you with the templates to gamify your onboarding or teambuilding. Add your own essential content to get your core messages across, while including the best of gamification and storytelling elements to engage the audience. The system encourages 360-degree feedback and for the group to function as a whole unit – each individual’s contribution matters.

Final thoughts

Is that interactive presentation really so interactive? If we’re talking about traditional methods such as Powerpoint, the answer is usually “not even close.”

We want interactive presentations because they encourage engagement, so it’s important to look for other choices, such as escape technology. Interaction helps to hold attention and cement any learning. 

Could you improve performance, retention, or other key HR metrics if you could ensure better presentation engagement? It’s certainly worth taking a second look.

Written by Ab Advany

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