One of the keys to staging successful meetings which offer maximum value to your organisation can be knowing which approach to adopt.

According to Nancy Duarte, author of the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, different meetings require a different strategy from the outset.

She explained that meetings are very often delivered as presentations, where somebody shares their thoughts with the other attendees.

But Ms Duarte believes that in many situations, it is more productive for meetings to be staged as conversations between the attendees.

This ensures other voices are considered and different views are exchanged, she told

Presentations vs. conversations

Ms Duarte identified a number of scenarios where presentations may be the best approach for meetings - following the traditional structure.

These include where there is a need to communicate a pre-formed idea, where the organiser already has information about the other participants' wants and needs, and where there is a need to inform, persuade or inform an audience.

Similarly, presentations may be suitable where the organiser does not need real-time feedback from the audience, or where a single event is needed to move the audience towards an objective.

But Ms Duarte also highlighted a number of situations where staging a conversation-based meeting can be more valuable to organisations.

These include where there is a need to build upon an idea and gain a consensus, and where more information is needed on the group's wants or needs.

Other situations where a conversation may be more suitable include where the presenter needs to build a personal relationship with the audience and when the group's input is needed to move forwards.

Ms Duarte suggested that if continuous engagement is needed to achieve a particular objective, it may also be better to open the floor up to different people's views.

Choosing the right approach

"If you want to inform or persuade, by all means, plan to present," Ms Duarte stated.

"But if you’re looking for give-and-take, you won’t get it by speaking at length - more likely, you’ll shut people down."

She told the news provider that facilitating a conversation is a better way to solicit ideas, but she suggested it is also harder to do.

"When you’re presenting, you have the benefit of being in near-total control. When you’re leading a conversation, you open the door to a host of other challenges," Mr Duarte stated.

"You want to encourage people to share thoughts freely and honestly, but that also means you have to juggle multiple viewpoints, manage conflicts, and make sure everyone is heard."