January 18, 2007

Presentation Tips

I attended two half-day training sessions recently on presentations & public speaking & came away with several great tips. I'm writing them up here so I don't forget them -- and maybe they'll help you, too!

The training itself was terrific and the presenter modeled what she was teaching us. The teacher was Chris Hand Parliman, principal of FALCON (Future Advantage, Learning, Consulting and Organizational Networking).

Tips for a good intro
* I have a great concept of how the session should start: with a quick beat of silence. I did this by accident during the training session -- I was trying to find the second hand on the clock so I could keep my presentation to 1 minute as requested -- and the silence & expectant looks of the audience were empowering and almost enticing for the class. I want to do that again!
* The intro should take ~10% of the class time (50 minute class = 5 minute intro; three hour class = ~20 minute intro -- that seems a bit long for a weekly class, but we'll see ...). The end should also take ~10% -- same # of minutes as above.
* Tell class / students:
* "Don't be afraid to say 'I don't understand'."
* "Share your experience & knowledge with the class if / when it's relevant"
* "You are all adults & if you have needs (bathroom, stretch, another cup of coffee -- take care of them. Don't need to ask me!"
* Interesting icebreaker: talk to the person next to you and find out enough about them to say whey they're you're hero. We got some great responses in our session!

Tips for the classroom
* Reorient folks after the break -- quickly say something like "we finished our discussion of X before the break, now we're going to talk about Y."
* Maybe have classical music playing in the background as they walk in? (this was an idea generated in the session, but I'm not sure it was Chris'). I will try this with naxos -- a wee bit distracting, comforting, maybe will make folks more comfortable talking among themselves?

Tips for presenting more generally
* Keep your thumb right where you're speaking on your notes -- and move the thumb when you switch to the next topic. That way, when you look down at your notes, you know where you are in your presentation.
* Remember to breathe & put spaces between words so the audience has a chance to digest what you've just said. Try to avoid "ums" and "uhs" -- distracting for audience & doesn't leave time for processing. (I'm sure there's some great cog sci research on this!)
* Pay attention to the side of the room that is your non-dominant hand. If you are left-handed, you'll have a tendency to look at the left side of the room, so try to consciously pay attention to the right side of the room.
* Fidgeting takes away from your point, so have something small to fidget with (I think pens are too big, but that's what I like -- 'cause then you can write with them, too). Also, try to time your body fidgets -- i.e., movement -- with a change in point. So if you're talking about X and X and X -- stay in one place. Then M_O_V_E when you start to talk about Y.
* If you ask for questions and there are none, say "last time I taught this class, people asked ABC" and answer ABC question. Even if it's not true, you can imagine a
* Tell them what you're doing when you're not speaking -- i.e. look at your notes and say "I want to make sure I covered everything. Hmmm. Yup, that's it."

* Another cog sci tip: if you use notes, put some blue / green / pink paper behind your notes so that the audience doesn't see WHITE paper by your face. It's harsh and can be distracting. Some of my classmates tried their presentations with blue or pink paper, and I was much better able to focus on their face & what they were saying. Fascinating but true!
* Don't speak when writing on the board. This helps you write better, and it helps the audience take in what you're writing. After you're done, you can review what you wrote -- and they can read it. :-)

What about problems?
We talked about some problems that can arise from the audience -- here are the answers to four I identified with ...
1. Hostile response from someone(s) about what you're saying.
Them: "You mean I have to ... &*(^@# ?!"
You: "I know you know a lot about this PersonName -- but let me get through this part and then we'll discuss during the Q&A. Don't let me forget!"
Take control back, but don't forget them. Chris emphasizes that your setup is very important here -- if you've said there will be Q&A at the end (at 1:45, say), then in this situation, you can say "I'll be done with my part in 10 minutes, and then we can discuss this." And *do* discuss it -- but on your terms, not theirs.
2. Comments that aren't relevant in the middle of your presentation.
Them: "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah "
You: "Good point, PersonName. Does anyone else want to comment on that?"
You step in when they breathe and MOVE to another spot as you say your phrase. You're changing the focus from them back to you.
3. They interrupt your awesome presentation when you don't want to be interrupted.
Them: "I think that we should be talking about the environment"
You: "Great idea -- we'll come back to that in a few minutes / during the Q&A"
You praise them for a good idea, then defer the comment until YOU want to talk about it. AND you walk away while you say your thing to indicate that you're going back to YOUR topic.
4. If a few of them are talking while you are, stop and say "Your talking is distracting me and the rest of the class. You can ask me a question if you don't understand, or take the conversation into the hall, or talk to me during the break - - but please stop talking while I am."

Great ideas -- thanks Chris!

No comments: