How Intimate Are Your Presentations?

By Alece Birnbach

Presenting to small groups provides opportunities that aren’t realistic in larger venues. Here are five ways to help you create an intimate presentation that is conducive to learning and participation.

1. Create a relaxed environment.

The best way to create a relaxed environment is to be relaxed yourself. The 10-15 minutes before a meeting starts is a great opportunity for you to set a relaxed tone. Introduce yourself and chat with people as they’re trickling into the room. This will alleviate any anxiety you might have about “taking the stage.” By the time you’re ready to begin, you’ll feel like you’re among friends—and so will they.

2. Set your theme or agenda.

Give a brief overview of your subject. If you have a couple of key points you want attendees to remember, state them right away. Write out the key points on a flipchart while you say them. Better yet, draw a very simple icon next to each one such as light bulbs next to ideas or a group of stick people to represent a team. The simpler the better. Writing and drawing in front of people keeps them engaged and increases memory retention.

3. Use visuals wisely.

I recently graphic-recorded a brainstorming session for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was my pleasure to work with a couple of terrific facilitators from Ideo. They used their slides in the best possible way. They showed only pictures (no words or charts) to emphasize their point. This has far greater impact than reading the slides. It also creates trust with your audience by demonstrating how well you know your material.

4. Facilitate interaction.

You’ve already created a relaxed environment, so when you’re finished presenting, encourage the group to interact and share experiences. If something profound comes out, write it on your flipchart. Show people that their ideas are important, too.

5. Finish strong.

End by summarizing your key points one more time. And always let your passion for your subject show. Excitement is contagious!

From Alece Birnbach's February Presentations column at

Graphic Recording at the NAIS Conference.

Graphic Recording at the NAIS Conference.

New sketch animation