I have been invited to speak at a local conference next month and I’ve been thinking about how to make sure my presentation isn’t boring. We’ve all been there – an interesting topic, a speaker with impressive credentials – so we arrive with expectations for a memorable event. And then reality sets in as we sit passively while the speaker proceeds to read PowerPoint slides for 45 minutes and then says, “I want to be sure this is an interactive experience so I’ve left plenty of time for discussion and questions.” Since the speaker lost me after the second slide, I have no way to ask an intelligent question or add to the “discussion.” I feel appropriate amounts of guilt over my failings as an attentive audience member and promise myself that I will do better next time. And I do try as I prepare for the next presentation by taking out a notebook with pen poised at the ready to document nuggets of wisdom as they fall from the speaker’s lips….after about two minutes of rapt attention I’ve resorted to drawing sunflowers across the margin of the page while thinking about what I’ll eat for dinner.
I’m going to be speaking about an interesting topic but I won’t flatter myself by suggesting I possess impressive credentials so the bar is low since most of the participants won’t have heard of me and therefore, should not have any pre-conceived ideas about how great this next hour is sure to be. I’d like to at least keep them awake, so I’m definitely looking for new ideas about how to engage them.
I typically conduct workshops so I was a bit taken aback when the conference organizer informed me that I will be speaking to a fairly large group of faculty and administrators in a theater-style room making interaction difficult. YIKES !!! What am I going to do? How am I going to engage these people and create if not an actual dialogue, at least an internal one where they think about what I’m saying and find ways to use some of the tips I’ll be suggesting throughout my presentation? (Notice I’ve still not moved all the way to thinking of this as a speech?)
I’ve decided to follow some advice I found while reading through some recent blog posts made by a few of my colleagues (thanks Jennifer and Jeff) and I thought I’d share my plan in the hope that readers will add to this discussion and offer additional suggestions and stories (and please, do it fast because my presentation – I mean speech – is at the end of September.)
I’m not going to prepare a PowerPoint. Yes, you read this correctly – NO PowerPoint! I’m going to move away from trusted bullet-points and try to incorporate purely visual cues using a few simple pictures or images with Prezi as suggested in Jennifer Golightly’s recent blog.
I’m going to follow Jeff Borden’s reminder to “Tell, Show, Do, Review, and Ask in a multi-modal way.” I’ll begin with a high-level overview describing the three key points I plan to speak about. I’ll follow this up by speaking about each point in more detail using several rich descriptions and a few well-timed visuals (Prezi slides) as my showing/doing elements. Ask is the easy part - I plan to encourage interactivity by asking questions that can be responded to by a show of hands. Review will be a summary of the key points along with a few sentences linking the salient points together. I will revisit the ‘Ask’ portion of the presentation by allowing time for participants to pose questions. I will also be prepared with a few questions of my own designed to encourage further discussions during the rest of the conference.
Well, wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it went in a future blog post. And please accept the invitation to share your own ideas and suggestions for making presentations more interesting and engaging for our audiences whether they be our students or our peers.
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