Leveraging the myriad of conversations

For those of us who present in classrooms, training sessions, workshops and conference sessions, times have changed dramatically. Gone are the days of passive consumers of printed content in need a little jump start by an orator with visual aids. Gone is the audience that was equally isolated and offline as books in print or closed door sessions. Welcome to the myriad of continual conversations that regard informative presentations as interruptions to their lively interchanges.

Engagement in this myriad of continual conversations makes any participant seem distracted, low on attention span and incapable of paying attention. Yet they are far more attentive to those conversations which they find absorbing, challenging and rewarding. Rather than getting mere information, they are getting alternative perspectives, valued commitments, useful feedback and thoughtful responses to their queries. 

On the surface there appears no way to compete with this myriad of continual conversations. Most presenters believe they cannot join in those conversations without abandoning what content they've prepared to deliver. They insist that their audiences pay attention up front. They face a threat to their enterprise from this distraction rather than seeing an opportunity for giving, caring, listening, or relating.  They imagine they will lose everything if they give into the backchannel, twitter stream or other running commentary on their presentation.

Thinking this way invites a snark (SNide remARK) attack. The presenter will come under siege from the transformed audience who experiences relentless content delivery as blatant:
  • disregard of their myriad of continual conversations
  • disrespect for their insightful play-by-play commentary getting shared online with followers
  • devotion to a flawed strategy of domination and abuse of power
  • designs to manipulate, deceive and run a scam on the audience

This problem for presenters is similar to lots of other problems that call for a change in strategy:
  1. sellers wanting to upgrade their features and benefits to charge premium prices while buyers are looking for cheaper bargains
  2. manufacturers who want customers to choose from what's on the shelf while the customers want customizing options
  3. broadcasters who want audiences to watch their shows with commercials as scheduled while viewers want to download the content, time shift their viewing and skip over the commercial spots
  4. journalists who want readers of news to get their coverage from vetted sources while seekers of news reports trust citizens who happen to be close to the incidents to tell it as they see it

One way to leverage these strategic opportunities is to give the customers what they want. In negotiating terms, this is adopting a lose/win strategy which makes unilateral concessions to the opposing side. It falls short from a win/win strategy because it takes the customers demands literally. It attempts to resolve positional conflicts at the level where differences are irreconcilable. 

A more effective approach shows an interest in the others' interests. The innovative strategy responds to their underlying need for regard, respect, power sharing and transparency. They want to feel understood more than put in charge of everything. They are creating an opportunity to work with them, not for them or against them. A effective presentation strategy speaks of their interests, contexts, and myriad of conversations as if it's essential to the value proposition. The content gets transformed into a portrait of how the audience is perceived, related to and understood as respectable. Those who appeared "otherwise engaged" then  happily share that respectful message with their followers and continue that conversation long after the presentation. 

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