Hammering home your (power)Point – Presenting Part II

In my last post, I shared some ideas from EDUCAUSE’s Malcolm Brown on presenting.  I ran out of time and space before I had a chance to finish!  Here are some more of my thoughts on his tips.

Idea 15:  Who do you think you’re talking to?!?  Though it is impossible to address your entire presentation to the wants and needs of every individual in the room (usually), unlike being a Jedi knight, in this case, there is “try”.  Of course, you can better know who your audience members are and what they know by, and this is a crazy idea, ASKING THEM.  You can utilize clickers or a pre-presentation survey, or simply ask for a show of hands.  But here is a personal pet peeve:  If you do ASK your audience about their experience or ideas, ADJUST your presentation according to the results.  Have you ever felt very proud of yourself for engaging your audience by asking a few questions in the beginning, but then proceeded with your presentation exactly as you had planned regardless of how they answered?  Like I’m doing right now?

Idea 16:  Um.  When I was a senior in high school, we had a fantastic class president who had to run all-school assemblies every Friday.  But, and apologies to Ron if he’s reading this, he had one major flaw:  UM.  As in, “So, um, if you want to, um, sign up for um, volleyball…”  You would NEVER write this way, yet so many of us speak with little tics like this without even noticing.  In today’s digital age, and especially here at WPI, it is SO EASY to record yourself presenting, and  identify these little quirks yourself.  Even if your quirk is a simple lack of enthusiasm, you can identify it by watching yourself.

By the way, Ron never did record himself.  So one day the entire school repeated every “Um” he uttered.  I’m guessing that wherever Ron is today, he isn’t “umm’ing” anymore.  Poor guy.  Speaking of feedback…

Ideas 17:  Listen to feedback from others!  Malcolm says, “Be very careful about dismissing feedback, especially critical feedback, or rationalizing away its significance.”  But it’s just so hard!  One tip that may help?  Designing from your audience’s perspective.  When you design your presentation with your audience in mind, especially if you have received feedback from such an audience before, you can communicate more effectively.

Idea 18:  Not matter what you are presenting, the ultimate goal is for your audience to actually LEARN something, right? Think about your most effective teachers.  Some (okay, actually many) would say that we learn best when we engage in the material.  So let’s be sure not to criticize others for boring lectures then turn around and make the same mistakes ourselves!

Idea 19:  Make eye contact with your audience.  Don’t look at your slides.  You already know what’s on them.

Idea 20:  Keep your slides in motion!  There is no need to stay on a slide for more than 5 minutes or so.  If you find yourself doing this when you practice, make a new slide.

Idea 21:  Projectors aren’t as good as monitors/tablets.  Careful about yellows and other mild colors!

Idea 22:  Watch a TED talk.  Give one of those.  They are, as a rule, awesome.

Idea 23:  Your slides are not a handout!  If you try to make one set of slides serve both needs, neither will be very helpful.

Idea 24:  “If you need to make a complex point, build it carefully, step by step.”  I think Malcolm makes this point so well!  Map out the point you need to make graphically, and even if you don’t use the image, it will help you construct the best path for the information.

Idea 25:  Choose the right software.  Prezi or PowerPoint?  This thesis examines the differences, and is a great resource.  No matter which you use, what really matters is the right amount of excitement without distraction.

Idea 26:  Don’t show baby pictures.  Malcolm, I have to admit, this one’s a tough one for me.  Aren’t my kids the cutest in the world?  Doesn’t EVERYONE want to see how adorable my children are?

Don't you want to engage in conversation when you see how cute they are? Or is that just me?

But you’ve convinced me: “Baby pictures offer no room for discussion, critique, or analysis.”  I see here that you don’t mean actual baby pictures, but rather any image that will not be as interesting to the audience as it is to the presenter.  Really it goes back to Ideas 15, 16 & 17 – it’s not about me.

Idea 27:  Come back to the thesis.  Going way back to before you built your presentation, you wrote down objectives, or perhaps your message.  After you’ve designed your slides and practiced your presentation.  Does the presentation you’ve built actually meet these objectives?  This sounds like such a simple idea, but in reality, it requires the hard-work magic that makes it all worthwhile.

Malcolm recommends some other resources, including Presentation Design Zen by Garr Reynolds and slide:ology by Nancy Duarte.  Thanks for these ideas and resources, Malcolm!

We would love to hear more!  Please share yours below.

Happy presenting!

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Instructional Technology Specialist at WPI

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