How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Go with the Flow
When your audience is talkative or when you are engaging them in discussion as you speak rather than waiting for questions at the end, then it may make sense to follow them rather than require them to follow you.
You can do this by asking questions and then digging into what they say. You may also notice that several questions or comments are similar, indicating a general concern in a particular area, which you can then use to steer your presentation.
Keep a close eye on audience body language, looking for signs of focused interest or disinterested restlessness. How they respond to what you say will give you useful information which you can use to steer your presentation.
Sometimes you may discover the flow before you start presenting, for example through questions to previous speakers or from conversations beforehand, such as in coffee breaks.
Always be ready to change if audience concerns change. Watch for when they are satisfied with what they have heard and may be interested in other topics.
And finally watch for when they are ready to stop. If you are speaking late in the day, just before a break or if your subject is a bit heavy, they may run out of steam before your allotted time. In such situations, finishing a little early may be much appreciated.
I gave a talk on persuasion recently to a group of engineers. I quickly sensed they were not keen on the 'fluffy stuff' so I asked them about the non-technical problems they have. Unsurprisingly there was plenty of personal stuff, including some romantic issues. We consequently discussed these and I gave them some techniques they could use. Being engineers, they wanted to know how these would work. Before long, we were deep in the 'fluffy stuff'...
This method of presenting can be more difficult than others as it requires you to be very flexible, which in turn needs you to know your subject very well and have a style that allows for variation. However, if you can connect with your audience go with the flow you can have a far greater impact.
Once you are connected with them, they may also become more flexible and willing to go with your flow. You can test this by going off the track they seem to want and seeing if they come with you.