By John Nawn published July 8, 2010

20 Ways to Deliver Content that Engages at Face-to-Face Meetings

In last week’s post, I identified several ways organizations are developing content in order to better engage with attendees prior to their meetings. This week, we turn to 20 innovative ways you can deliver content during meetings/face-to-face events–and have much more fun in the process.

First, what do we know about how adults learn in order to deliver content that engages them?

Today’s meeting attendees are:

  • Self-directed: Involve them in the learning process
  • Knowledgeable: Leverage their experience
  • Goal-oriented: Define clear objectives and outcomes
  • Relevancy-oriented: Learning must be applicable to their work
  • Internally motivated: Relate learning to their interests

Given these characteristics, it’s no wonder that the traditional “sage from the stage” lecture format used in most meetings is no longer cutting it. Today’s attendees are looking for a more immersive meeting experience, and the following are 20 ideas for delivering one.

Appreciative Inquiry: A process for approaching change from a holistic framework using three core phases: discovery, dream, and design.

Body Voting: For any size group, ask individuals to stand or sit based on their answers to questions.

Buzz Group: A small group (the buzz group) breaks off from a larger group in order to generate ideas to take back to the larger group for discussion or decision making.

Case Study: An in-depth investigation of a single individual, group, or event to explore causation in order to find underlying principles.

Critical Incident: The telling of an individual experience (a critical incident) in story format, which is analyzed for its significant contribution to an activity or phenomenon.

Fishbowl: A small group discussion or demonstration observed by a larger, surrounding group. Open fishbowls have an open chair available for audience members to cycle in and out of the conversation. Closed fishbowls don’t allow for substitutions but the entire group can be replaced by another.

Graphic Recording: A visual record of an event using images, symbols and words. Great for summarizing conversations and connections.

Ignite: Similar to Pecha-Kucha (see below) except using 15 slides for 20 seconds per slide (5:00 minutes total).

Jigsaw: A small group technique where participants are paired with experts to learn a subset of material and then rejoin the group as instructor on the subset material.

Mashups: Like its musical roots imply, a collection of seemingly random people and their ideas making beautiful conversation together.

Mini-Lecture or Lecturette: An abbreviated presentation, sometimes followed by a facilitated discussion for the remainder of time allotted.

Open Space: A flexible format focused on an important purpose or task, but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.

Pecha Kucha: A fast-paced, fun presentation using 20 slides for 20 seconds per slide (6:40 minutes total).

Poster Session: A presentation of peer-reviewed research information with an academic or professional focus. Prominent at scientific or medical conferences.

Simulated Encounter: An experiential format designed to represent real-life scenarios like a sales call or customer service interaction.

Spectrogram: An interactive exercise which highlights the range of perspectives in a group. A facilitator asks a question and participants line up along a continuum.

StorySLAMs: Like a poetry slam but no rhyming required. Topics can be open or themed (5:00 minutes per story).

Tweettups: Sometimes planned, sometimes spontaneous group meetings, think ‘Happy Hour’ for the Twitterati. Invite and R.S.V.P. via Twitter only.

Unconference: A facilitated, participant-driven conference format centered around a theme or purpose.

World Café: A conversational process based on established design principles.

Each of these presentation formats is designed to increase engagement and foster a greater sense of community among your attendees. And who can argue with that?

So when it comes to a content delivery strategy for your conference, meeting or event, keep these design principles in mind:

Promote interactivity: Active learners retain more and apply more of what they learn to their jobs. Stop lecturing to your attendees. Get them more engaged with each other using a wider variety of presentation formats.

Create (more) informal learning opportunities: Research shows that approximately 80% of what we know we acquire through informal learning opportunities, not formal training programs. Don’t leave this to chance at your meeting via coffee breaks, luncheons, or social hours. Create contests, challenges, or assignments, complete with goals and objectives, which your attendees will want to participate in. They’ll leave better prepared to implement the new ideas they’ve been exposed to.

Empower PowerPoint: A tool’s utility is only as good as its user’s ability. If you must use a presentation tool, give more thought to what you’re trying to communicate and how best to do so. For some fresh perspectives on presenting ideas or data, see and

Stay tuned next week for the last part of this series that covers how to distribute content after a face-to-face meeting.

If you have more ideas on other ways to deliver content during in-person events, let us know in the comments!

Author: John Nawn

John Nawn is founder of He specializes in designing meetings that maximize the attendee experience, primarily through optimizing formal and informal learning opportunities. As an Organizational Psychologist, John helps organizations grow revenues and increase market share using learning for a competitive advantage. You can connect with John on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @perfectmeeting.

Other posts by John Nawn

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  • MPowerPhilosophy

    Thank you for explaining all these types of gatherings/presentations. I was aware of many of them, but seeing them all together lets you more easily choose which type is best for a particular situation.

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    Thanks a landlord it! I acquired yet some insight. Life is so colorful, we should be able to live in, such as Korea and honor the planet. Human life is like rivers, slowly flowing, flowing rivers, flowing through the snow, flows through the prairie and ultimately into the sea, return to the embrace of nature, start a new reincarnation. Allow us to feel the meaning of life will come only to those you have those memories

  • Brian Massey

    This is an entire post of possibility, a smorgasbord for the aspiring presenter, the entrepreneur looking for investment, and the person whose career depends on selling ideas. I don't know how many books I would have had to read come across all of these. Thanks for the great summary.

    Brian Massey

  • John Nawn

    The irony is that with all these options, one-way lectures are still the dominant delivery style at meetings and events. Mixing it up will require courage/confidence on the part of meeting planners and audiences who stand up and shout, 'We're mad as hell and we're not going to keep meeting like this anymore!'

    John Nawn
    The Perfect Meeeting