3 simple ideas to pep up your next “presentation event”

June 03, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


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Corinne-SprecherWe have all experienced the format “presentation followed by discussion”. Do it differently and go beyond the well-known pattern in the next event you facilitate. Get inspired by three methods that are really easy to apply: buzz groups, voting and fishbowl.

Corinne Sprecher, Agridea

Let’s imagine you have invited an expert to share her knowledge and experience. What intentions do you have for the expert’s talk? I suppose you want the audience to learn, to be inspired and to be touched. They want to relate their own experiences to what they hear. By giving them the chance to interact and exchange on the presented input they can process what they have heard, explore it further and come up with new ideas. It’s the interaction that makes the difference!

So what are creative ways to design the event?

Buzz groups: get the audience engaged like a swarm of bees




I love buzz groups as it is such a simple and yet activating method. You can use it before a presentation for warming up the audience or also afterwards to stimulate the audience to exchange on what they have heard.

How to go about it:

  • Ask a specific question, for example: What has motivated you to come and listen to this presentation? Or: What is on the top of your head now after this presentation? Do you sense an impulse for action?
  • Let people talk for some minutes about it in small groups (2-4 persons sitting next to each other)
  • Inform them in advance if you want for example each group to share a short statement afterwards in the plenary or if you will collect 5 random statements etc.

It’s called buzz because immediately the room sounds like in a beehive!


Let’s vote and see what happens



Have you ever considered asking the audience in the room what they are really interested in and what they would like to hear in the presentation? Imagine the expert only gives a short introduction and then propose topics or provocative theses to further deepen and discuss upon. This can create exciting dynamics in the room! Of course a flexible expert is a precondition for it. is an online tool that allows the audience to vote via their mobile devices and the result is shown live on screen. The same can of course also be done in a less fancy but much simpler way by sticking dots on flipcharts or by indicating the interest by the noise of their clapping and cheering.


Fishbowl: Have a structured discussion and give everyone the chance to participate!



Fishbowl is an alternative to a plenary discussion or also to a panel discussion. In a fishbowl there is an inner circle of chairs with people participating in the discussion and an outer circle of chairs for the audience. You can also arrange the chairs as in an ordinary panel. One chair in the inner circle or on the panel is left empty. This allows people following the discussion to step in, sit on the empty chair and participate in the discussion.

The advantage compared to the plenary discussion is, that it generates a more structured and engaged discussion. The advantage compared to the panel is that the audience has always the possibility to step into the discussion and participate. The facilitator encourages this!


Inspired to try something new next time? Let others know how it has worked!

Further Reading




Comments to“3 simple ideas to pep up your next “presentation event””

  1. carsten.schulz says:

    Dear Corinne, dear all
    Thank you Corinne for your blog-post on facilitation methods as a follow-up on presentations:
    Here a story of using fishbowl in Georgia: One of my colleagues in our project team (MOLI-Project in Georgia participated in a workshop event about M4P in Bosnia, where he learned about the fishbowl technique. He was so enthusiastic about this method, so he tried it out during a discussion event with Georgian entrepreneurs.

    In normal discussions in Georgia, everybody is talking and quite often interrupting the other speaker(s). Sometimes people get emotionally and rise their voice while they are talking. I can tell you: it´s a real challenge for a facilitator to lead such a discussion!

    However, when he introduced the fishbowl method to the entrepeneur discussion group – and very well controlling (and sometimes interfering), that only the 3 persons in the inner circle have the right to talk, the discussion was rather calm and much more focused on the topic.

    As an important hint for the facilitator (at least in a Georgian setting):
    – The facilitator should explain very well, who has the right to talk (sitting on a chair in the middle) and who has to listen and think, or prepare for one of the next statements within the fishbowl.
    – The facilitator should be very modest in interrupting the ongoing discussion, since it could create a nice momentum to better (and deeper) discuss certain issues, where a plenary discussion would not lead to the same outcome.

    This as a real story from the field – and best regards from Georgia


    MOLI in Kakheti Project
    implemented by HEKS-EPER in partnership with HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
    Carsten Schulz
    International Team Leader
    12 D. Agmashenebeli Street,
    4200, Sighnaghi
    Tel: +995 595 999553
    Skype: carsten.schulz.nampula

  2. Corinne Sprecher says:

    Thank you so much, Carsten, for this real story in the field! I love it. It is great to hear that the method has brought more focus to the discussion and even brought it to a deeper level. Also great to hear that your colleague has brought it with him from another event and you just tried it out!
    I share the experience that it is very important to explain very carefully the rules and to stick to them (politely!) once somebody wants to join in the discussion not sitting on a dedicated seat. And I like how you point out the importance of the audience: Listen carefully, think, and contribute when some important aspect is missing in the discussion. We do not want a passive audience.
    For example: I also use fishbowl to formulate conclusions at the end of the workshop, so whenever somebody does not agree, it is up to him or her to step up and intervene. The other day I happened to add a second empty chair in the middle of the fishbowl after we started the discussion , as I had underestimated the interest of the people to join in. Which was perfect!
    Best regards, Corinne

  3. Nina Prochazka says:

    Hi Corinne

    Thanks for your well-written, interesting and timely post – we just used two of the presented methods – fishbowl and buzz groups – during our SECO/WE retreat. With success!

    I’d like to share our fishbowl experience and the lesson learned: don’t be afraid to use the method with participants that are not familiar with participatory methods, and allocate sufficient time.

    As you are aware of, we at the SECO often struggle with the time we allow for discussions and interaction: Time is never enough, the know-how of methods limited, we don’t like to take the risk… just to name a few constraints.

    This year, time was not enough…. and the option of a World Café buried early in the planning process. So what to do with the need to discuss and explore a new thematic topic with a group of about 80 participants, making sure that everyone would engage, participate and interact?

    We first worked in small groups of 5 to 6 people, then moved to larger groups of 20 to 30 people, applying the fishbowl technique to condense and summarize the discussions and findings that had previously taken place in the smaller groups. Each fishbowl focused on one topic and was facilitated by a person that was familiar with the method and that had helped in preparing the exercise, and a note-taker.

    Participation went well and participants felt at ease with the method. Personally, I found the moment when the different fishbowls got together challenging. Because you then need to keep the participants together and because in our case, time run out ….

    Special was the setting of our fishbowl. We were in Thun, at the konzepthalle6, a place that seems predetermined for discussions, interaction, and the development of new ideas. We all loved it.

    Tight lines, and good luck with your fishbowls,


    Nina Prochazka
    Specialist Organisational Development
    Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER
    State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO
    Economic Cooperation and Development
    CH-3003 Bern


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