We are also moving away from the whole presenter stands at the front thing and trying to encourage a more informal discussion in a 'round table' sort of format (no references to King Arthur please). Problem is when you have a very talkative audience (...Americans) then trying to stay on schedule is a challenge, but this way you get to ensure everyone is awake and paying attention and people who might not normally speak up feel less conspicuous in this setting.
I developed a technique for that as I have to deal with a lot of Americans and Canadians these days. I have a crib card in front of me with one line main headings and all the sub-headings I want to cover to ensure I get through the content, I then have them marked from 1-5 with 1 being "must cover" and 5 being "silent audience, bonus content". If I get of distractions or question breaks then I start skipping those marked 5 and 4, the more stops I get then I start skipping those marked 3. I've never had to cut a 2 yet but it'll happen one day.
It's a bit of a learned experience working out whether interruptions from different audiences in different countries are positive or not, my experience is:
- if Germans interrupt you with questions then you've got them interested, if they don't then you've lost them.
- if Americans or Canadians interrupt you then it could mean anything, if they don't then they hate you.
- if South Africans interrupt you then you're messing things up and they're into critique mode, if they don't then you're doing well.
- if Australians interrupt you then you're either doing very well or very poorly, if they don't then it's either OK or deathly boring.
- if the Spanish interrupt you then it's the afternoon, if they don't it's the morning