Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Collaborate and co-invent, when your instinct says present

My apologies if the title of this post comes to you straight outta Seussville but I got carried away after talking with a friend recently about why he has a strong preference for dealing with issues around the table rather than making presentations. When I asked why, by the end of his answer I was amazed that anyone still gives presentations at all.

Presenting to an audience creates a degree of separation between the speaker and everyone else. Great speakers can overcome this but most subjects, and most businesses for that matter, are better served in the day-to-day by collaborative dialogue focusing on the vision, where things stand, the issues and their resolution.

Standing apart as a presenter can also place feedback - and possibly more worryingly, understanding and innovation - at one remove as well. Again, the picture of a group huddled around a table is a lot more given to action than its speaker/audience counterpart.

This also highlights essential questions around career leadership. When we search for that new job, send out our resume/CV, meet recruiters and interview, many of us act out speaker/audience roles by default. We are taught to tell our story, learn 30 second pitches and convey our strengths in the most compelling way possible.

With the above in mind, might we be better served considering more readily the two-way nature of these situations? Who is the individual we are talking with, what is their interest and what information do they need from us? What priorities govern their success in the context of the encounter? Already, this type of collaborative thinking changes the dynamic from speaker/audience to a more involving, collaborative interaction. All of a sudden there is more opportunity to learn and understand on both sides.

In the same spirit of co-invention, if you are reading this, what do you think?

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