A Presentation Tool/Technique for keeping an audience engaged

In February 2016, I was preparing to present the Participatory Learning Networks for the first time in a somewhat formal setting, The Goa Project, an unconference that happens in a beach resort in Goa. It is an eclectic mix of designers, entrepreneurs, 'techies', artists and so on. My fear was that the subject, which at the time was very focussed on organisational change in development and social impact would be painful or plain uninteresting for the audience. At around the same time, a friend who was reflecting on her process of engaging with people who present completely unrelated (to her) and new information or projects asked me how I did it. The key was to pick up the essence of what the person is saying and to apply it to my own context, experiences or projects. Based on the thoughts/questions that come up, I can then carry on a fairly interesting conversation, while adding a dimension to the person presenting new information.

The 'Tool'

The goal then was to turn the technique into a format for presentation and this seemed simple enough. I created five cue cards, as seen in the picture below, and handed the 'deck' to each participant in the audience, and asked them to hold it face down. I told them that each card was cue question, with a blank space to insert a particular word based on the slide I would be using.

cue cards
The five cue cards that were used at the Goa Project.

Each slide had a basic structure in which there was a phrase or image on screen that was directly relevant to what I was talking about at that moment, but it also had a slightly more general term that captured the content as a cue at the bottom. If somebody felt that they couldn't relate or they felt their attention drifting, they could pick a card at random and insert a word there. And I had a break in the presentation every few minutes so that people could air these emergent thoughts and questions.

slide introducing the idea
The visual structure on the slide: content in the center, and the cue word at the bottom.
So for example this was one of the slides, wherein I was introducing the development sector, and the manner in which problems were deeply interconnected and inherently 'wicked' and how the structure of interventions and projects didn't take into account this interdependence of problems. The cue word at this moment was 'systems thinking'. So one of the questions somebody might get using the card was, "Have I seen systems thinking being called something else?"
development planning slide
The slide in which I introduce the idea of development planning, and more importantly structural and wicked problems.
Here's another example. Here I am talking about cultural shifts that need to happen withing projects and/or organisations. The key is that instead of thinking of a project as being something you test and design once, and then scale, it is imperative to imagine a project as a prototype of ever increasing fidelity and thus iteration is key. The cue phrase here was "iterative processes". An example of what a card would read could be, "How can I integrate iterative processes in my work?"
one time to dynamic slide
The slide in which I talk about one of the major shifts in how projects are planned and designed.
While it wasn't a smashing success, I felt like the audience was somewhat more engaged. The main reason for sharing this here was that I wanted to see if other people find it interesting, and if you do, how would you use it? What other questions can be included? Email and let me know? Here's an A4 to print out your own cue cards.