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1. Boil Your Presentation Down to One Thing
Before presenting, it’s important to identify the one or two key things (no more than 3) that you want people to retain from the session. To a training provider used to juggling and imparting many complex concepts during a typical training session, this may seem like counterintuitive advice. Don’t students want the most value from each training session? However, stop and reflect on the many presentations, lectures, books, and religious services you may have experienced: how many of them can you remember today? If you’re like most, you’ll be able to remember just a few, and even then you’ll remember just one or two main points.
Even with courses or classes that are weeks in length on very technical subjects you should be able to boil each session down to 1-2 main themes that will help students retain what you’re teaching. If they remember the theme, it’ll serve as a marker within their mental model to go back and find the detailed information.
2. Tell a Story
Facts, figures, and statistics are informative, but are hard to remember and are often boring. Reinforce your 1-2 themes with a story and you’ll find that retention and interest skyrocket. The fact is that humans love stories, and while the reasons why are still being researched, the consensus seems to be that a narrative resonates with humans because we love to make sense of the world we’re in and stories provide this vehicle. By sprinkling your presentation and subject materials with stories that reinforce your major themes, you’re providing mental hooks that will captivate and interest your listeners.
Even if your subject matter is very dry, spend a bit of time seeing how your themes can be reinforced with anecdotes or examples from everyday life.
Juxtapositions of seemingly unrelated topics generate interest and provide people with a memorable experience. Try juxtaposing hobbies with your subject matter, for example, “What does motorcycle racing have to do with software development?”. To get some inspiration, try the following Google Search: “what does * have to do with *” and check out the results. Plenty of them are memorable, and many relate concepts that are surprising, interesting, and as a result, memorable!
Stories from your personal life, famous figures in history, or even stories you’ve heard from friends can all be incorporated. Even if you can’t find a story that fits well, craft a story about the situation you’d find yourself in to make the points you’re discussing relevant. For example, when we demonstrate Administrate to clients, we often tell a simple story along the lines of, “Imagine a training provider sitting in their office, surrounded by paper, fighting with an Excel spreadsheet, hurriedly trying to email a list of prospects and get a few invoices sent just before their next class begins – our training administration software is designed to prevent this!” That’s way more powerful than “Administrate is training administration software with features x, y, and z!”
3. Answer Who, What, When, Where, Why?
One of the key things in any presentation is to make sure you pass the basic journalistic test of: Who, What, When, Where, Why?
Who: Who is your course or presentation designed for?
What: What exactly are you communicating, teaching, conveying, or selling?
When: Is what you’re communicating available now? Do I need to wait to implement it? What’s the best situation to use this information or product?
Where: In what context is this information relevant or valuable?
Why: Why listen to your presentation? Articulate how your course, information, or presentation will improve the lives of your listeners, (or keep them out of jail, or make them additional money). What exactly will the knowledge that you’re transferring to your students do for them?
Providing the answers to these questions means you’re providing your audience with a well covered topic. Sometimes one or two of these questions aren’t applicable, but fail to answer a majority and you’ll leave questions lingering in your students’ minds.
This tip seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people never practice their presentation, even important ones! Practicing a presentation can seem awkward, annoying, and we’re all busy so time can be an issue, but as any instructor who has taught the same class back-to-back can attest to, the second time through the material is always better than the first! Because performing in front of a live audience can be weird (for both you and your guinea pig), we suggest presenting in a quiet room in front of a video camera. This will give you a chance to review yourself, make notes, and see how your audience will observe you. Don’t worry, everyone’s voice sounds weird to themselves, and everyone is a bit self conscious! We promise your presentation will improve and your students will thank you later.
5. Lastly, Share!
Lastly, after you’ve delivered your well practiced, awesome presentation that tells stories in support of your main themes while clearly answering the key questions, make sure you share your material (if appropriate). If your presentation was filmed, get it up on YouTube with a bit of editing. If you can, share your slides or notes and email the link to your attendees. This will be one last point of reinforcement and will be something tangible that your audience can take with them and refer to in the future.
Now get out there and present!
Edinburgh | Scotland | September 22-23, 2016