Presentation success takes more than just getting up and talking or teaching. Professionals don't leave their success to chance; they tailor each presentation to the audience, their needs, and the desired outcome of the presentation. In this Learning Blueprint, we concentrate on designing your presentation for training or for a learning event.
What is it?
Presentation design starts with a number of questions about the topic you are presenting, your audience, and what you want that audience to do after your presentation. Armed with the answers, you can design your presentation for maximum impact.
1. Engaging opening.
Design an engaging opening event that links the training to the desired performance in real-world terms. For example, tell a story about a client or customer of the organization or a story about the consequences for not adopting the new behavior being taught in the training. Show a short three- to five-minute video from the CEO or head of the division linking the new behaviors to success. Kick off the training with a clear benefit at the individual, departmental, and organizational levels.
2. First impressions.
You only get one first impression. Beyond dressing for success, your audience needs to know that you are a subject matter expert in this topic. One way to do this is to use their terminology (for example, bus drivers refer to themselves as coach operators; employees at Disneyland are called "cast members" and refer to visitors as "guests"). Another first impression enhancer is to have one to three seconds of eye contact with your learners. Practice learning names of your learners by using name recall techniques.
3. Build the sequence.
Depending on your audience's needs, prepare the sequence of your presentation. Typical sequencing approaches include "start to finish," "simple to complex," and "foundation first, then building blocks." For instance, you cannot effectively teach underwriting guidelines to a group of 20-somethings if they don't understand credit and credit concepts.
4. Tailor the content.
While you may have established the sequence of learning activities, let the learners guide you. If the learners are more advanced, let them get their hands on the practical application early; spend less time covering the basics and groundwork. Provide a "nice to know" section at the back of your handout, where interested learners can find more information about the topic. Always provide citations, resources, and a bibliography of reference materials.
5. Talk less, teach more.
The best presenters know that learners learn the most when they are engaged with the topic, engaged with the learning, and engaged with each other. Build in discussion time, reflection time, and practice time. The added bonus? Getting the learners talking about the topic takes the stress of presenting off of you, helping to decrease your nervousness.
6. Build the learning scaffolding.
Present using multiple approaches. Plan to use appropriate stories, analogies, glossaries and definitions of terms, examples, and testimonials. Bolster your credibility by using statistics and facts, with reference links to the data.
7. Anticipate and handle questions.
Questions help learners maximize their learning. Anticipate the areas where learners will have questions, and answer with the material, before the questions are asked. When questions arise, clarify the learner's questions and answer succinctly. Provide an example if needed. Prepare questions in advance to ensure that all the key material is covered, including varied types of questions (open, closed, or rhetorical for example) and when to ask them.
8. Reinforce the message.
Plan the use of visual aids to help the learners remember and apply the learning. Visuals move audiences, so incorporate different methods of reinforcement such as PowerPoint slides, job aids, and flipcharts. Involve the learners with the visual aid by developing activities that require the learners to use the aid.
9. Provide feedback.
Help learners apply what they've learned with practice opportunities, and give them multiple sources of feedback. Start out with short activities (one-minute presentations for example), and give verbal feedback that is structured and short. Include one thing they did well and one thing they could do differently. Build into longer presentations (five to 10 minutes) with more structured and detailed feedback that is then given one-on-one, both verbally and written.
10. Close with action.
If your learners do not transfer that learning back to the job, then the presentation was a net loss - loss of time, loss of opportunity, and loss of trust in learning and in you as a presenter. As with your opening, close with a story. Ask learners to commit to a plan of action. One way of engaging them is having them write out three things they will do after the training and then going around the room asking that each person share one of the three things with the rest of the class.
One size does not fit all - not for clothes or shoes, and certainly not for presentations. You have to design your presentation to match the needs of the audience and the desired outcomes for the training.
"Why it works"
Statistics show that one of the most needed skills of any professional who wants to advance is the ability to successfully present ideas. Developing the capability to give good presentations is an extremely helpful competency for self-development. Successfully presenting takes confidence and preparation. Good preparation and rehearsal will reduce your nerves by 75 percent, and increase the likelihood of avoiding errors by 95 percent (Source: Fred Pryor Organization), resulting in a boost in confidence and a successful presentation.