I recently conducted a full-day workshop on business excellence for the executive team of a software company in Toronto. The head of training and development found my presentation skills noteworthy and requested some advice.
These tips are not just for people in the T&D department; they’re valuable for anyone in an organization tasked with delivering a training session. Here are the insights I shared.
- Make sure you know your material backward and forwards. You must be able to present without slides or notes if necessary.
- My process has always been to teach ideas first. Then, ask people to do some individual workshops. Then, I put them in groups to discuss what they created in their individual workshop. Then, I have each group report on the pattern they found in their various groups. You saw this in action in Toronto. The theory behind this is: I teach you, you teach yourself, you teach each other, and then you teach me. By the end of the session, you should have the group trying to tell you about what you wanted them to learn. The student becomes the teacher.
- People want actionable information. Always think from the student’s point of view. What do they need to learn?” Not what you want to teach. Make sure that what you focus on will be truly valuable and helpful to the people in your session. No fluff.
- In the early stages as an instructor, you can use other people’s research and ideas. As you progress, you should begin to present mainly your own research and from your point of view. You cannot become a thought leader using other people’s thoughts.
- Distinguish between what are facts and what is your opinion. Your students should not be able to argue with facts. However, if it’s just your opinion then their opinion is as valid as yours. Don’t fight to be right.
- Always give unambiguous instructions. Put them on your slides and in the workbook. People need help remembering directions. Make it easy for them to understand what you want them to do in the workshop.
- It is a delicate balance of how much to put in the workbook. If everything I discuss is in there, people will not take notes. So, I try to leave a few blank pages for people to write down what I’m saying but I put the most essential information they would need later in the workbook. Workbooks are always a work in progress. I make changes every time I present.
- Keep your slides very simple. Just a few words. Your slides should be attractive, not overwhelming. I use the slides to keep myself on track. If there’s too much information on the slides, your students will not hear what you’re saying while they read the slides. You can always send the slides and additional information later. Don’t kill them with too much detail. Delight them with usable ideas.
- On that same point, do not read your slides to the students.
- Watch carefully to ascertain if your workshops are achieving the outcome you want. I am constantly revising my workshops to ensure they focus on getting the exact outcome I’m shooting for. Which is 100% based on the needs of the students, not what I think is cool.
- Try to build in a lot of interaction to keep people engaged.
- Give breaks at least once every 90 minutes. One of my favorite sayings is that the mind can only absorb what the butt can endure.
- I usually try to end just a little bit before the agenda says we are. People feel like they’re getting out of school early.
- As you saw from my class. I like to ask people to write three action steps they will take due to what they learned. Information is great. Application is what’s important.
- Move around the room, but not too much. People get bored if you stand in one place. People get freaked out if you pace like a caged tiger.
- Make sure you speak loudly enough that everyone in the room can clearly hear you. If the room is too big, get a lapel microphone so that you can still move around the room.
- Trust AV people. They are there to make you look and sound good.
- Only use humor if you’re funny.
- If someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, throw it back to the audience to see if they have any input. Make sure you get back to them.
- Pick your clothes carefully. Wear something that is comfortable. Take everything out of your pockets. For women, don’t wear flashy or clunky jewelry. Always dress at least one level above the audience. This is to show them respect and demonstrate that you are a professional. If an instructor looks sloppy or too dressed down it impacts their credibility. Also make sure that your teeth are clean, your hair looks good, and you have breath mints. I know it sounds a little bit trivial, but these small things add up.
- That will give you time to think things through and develop an answer. If that does not work, simply admit that you don’t know and tell the person you will get back to them later with the answer. And then make sure you get back to them with the answer.
- Be extremely careful about profanity. I’m not good at this one.
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