Calibrating your presentation using SMS questions

(Salim Virani) #1

“You can hope that my presentation gives you value, but the best way is to ask for it.” - John Maeda

When presenting, John Maeda asks for questions up front, collects them over text message, and has a nice system that shows the questions on screen which he jumps to as early as a few minutes in.

He explains why he’s been doing this:

  1. It enables introverts to ask questions. Because usually a Q&A section can easily be taken over by a few extroverts. Text messaging levels the playing field.
  2. Audience members can get immediate value. I prefer to deliver immediate value, and the only way I can do so is to know what the audience is thinking.
  3. Time is used efficiently. I have a bunch of talks online so anyone can hear me blah-blah-blah in general on YouTube. A live audience is used best with live data.

Even if you don’t answer the questions, collecting them up-front allows you to calibrate your talk, just like a good mentor asks questions before starting with advice. At Source, we build calibration into the start of workshops as well, usually using Post-Ups.

John’s view on “introvert inclusiveness” is really useful. It’s not just about introverts, but also relevant for different cultures. For example, we’ve experienced that Asian cultures tend to be less inclined towards speaking up in large groups. This also happens when confidentiality is an issue, like at corporate conferences, or when there are pre-existing hierarchies in the room.

We’ve seen Twitter walls before, but a key difference here is that SMS is universal, implies (in this context) anonymity, and doesn’t require the questioner to share their question outside of the room.

Watch John in action:

and here with a more informal unconference audience:

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