Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting Your Point Accross: Webinar Presentation Skills

According to The Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking is the number-one fear in the minds of the majority of people. (Yes, above the fears of death and disease.)

In high school, I had the same fear. I would rather accept a failing grade than speak in front of the class. Between high school and college, however, I learned some skills for public speaking and instructional techniques. By college, I was so comfortable in front of the class that, during my second year, one of my professors invited me back to her class of first-year students, to speak to them about public speaking.

The two most useful acronyms that I recall from that experience (and the two that I use to this day, whenever I have to speak publicly) are ICEPAC and CREST. One is to help you remember principles of instruction, and the other is to help you remember the most useful types of verbal support or training aids.

ICEPAC is an acronym that represents the Principles of Instructions [CFP, 1992]. Each of these principles must be addressed in your presentation to make it successful. Here is what each letter means, as well as some tips to help address the related principle:

The members of your audience will pay closer attention to your presentation if they are interested in it, so you must find a way to generate interest. Some methods to generate interest include:

· Making them understand the personal value of the information in the presentation. How will it benefit them in their day-to-day lives? How, where, and when will they use the information?

· Making them understand the impact of not understanding the information in the presentation. As an example, if you are presenting to an audience on the importance of reliable software, explain that unreliable software can cause death (as in the Therac-25 Incidents) [Virginia Tech, Jan 2007]. The threat of death, injury, or other negative consequences often generates interest as a natural result of wanting to avoid it.

· Finding a new and innovative way to present your material. Avoid "death by PowerPoint."

You must ensure that your audience is ready to receive your presentation. Before starting into the meat of your presentation, try to ask questions of your audience members, to gauge their level of knowledge and expertise as it applies to the subject matter at-hand. If your audience does not have the requisite background knowledge to comprehend your presentation, you have only two choices:

· Adjust your own presentation to correspond to their level of knowledge.

· Raise their level of knowledge to a level that is required of your presentation.

Use presentation aids to emphasize important points. This will help the audience get the critical points of your presentation. Some suggested methods of emphasizing a particular point include:

· Using a visual-presentation aid such as Microsoft Office PowerPoint.

· Doing something out of the ordinary, or involving your audience. For example, I once had to teach a class the proper technique for teeth-brushing. To make it interesting and ensure that the students paid attention, I had a bunch of them line up shoulder-to-shoulder at the front of the class and used a (clean) automotive snow brush as a toothbrush to demonstrate (on the students' teeth), the proper technique.

· Using one of the verbal-support techniques described later.

· Repeating the point (this is a sure sign to the audience that something is important).

· Saying, "This is important."

People learn and remember by "doing." Get your audience as involved as you can in your presentation. Physical participation is best, but it is not usually appropriate for the type of presentation that an architect will likely give. As an alternative to physical participation, ask questions. Ask your audience questions about what you have said so far; ask your audience for their own views on the subject of the presentation. Do not just talk at your audience; get them thinking by getting them involved in the presentation. Use leading and thought-provoking questions to promote mental activity in the audience.

In a teaching situation, it is vital that the students have a sense that they have accomplished the goals of the lesson. In a presentation situation, it might be helpful to review the agenda at the end of the presentation and help the audience review where each thing that you presented fits into the agenda. That is, they have accomplished the goal of the presentation, whatever it was.

Confirm that the members of your audience understand what you are saying, and do not continue your presentation until they do. Your presentation should be broken into stages (discussed later), and each stage should build upon the previous one. This means that you should not leave the current stage until its contents are well understood and the audience has the proper base of knowledge to support them as you move to the next stage.

By following these basic principles of instruction, you can ensure that your audience gets the most out of your presentation.

CREST is an acronym that represents some of the most effective verbal supports or training aids that you can use during your presentation. Try to use a variety of different elements. Each critical point you are trying to make in your presentation should be backed up by at least one verbal-support mechanism. Here is what each letter means:

Compare the concept, item, or process you are trying to describe to something else that the audience understands and can relate to. Along with providing emphasis, this can also track back to the principle of comprehension.

Provide a valid reason that the information you are presenting is important. Along with providing emphasis, this can also track back to the principle of interest.

Provide examples to illustrate your point. In this article, I have used this method in describing how to teach people to brush teeth.

Provide simple statistics to support your position. Do not rely too heavily on statistics; often, competing statistics are available, and the audience might find too many charts and numbers boring. Remember "Fear of public speaking is the number-one fear amongst the majority of people"? This is a simple statistic that helps emphasize the importance of the contents of this article.

Bring in an expert from outside the group to provide testimony that what you are saying is true, and present that expert's perspective on it. You could also quote experts to support the information you are presenting.

1 comment:

  1. I met a lot of people who seem to run away from platforms. They hate public speaking , nor the fact to be asked impromptu. Well, I can't blame them, stage fright has been one of the psychological disturbances of man.

    To remedy this, I recommend my students to use meeting space (Washington DC-based). They are going to be broadcasted live but the effect is less due to the people's absence. Moreover, I can stay at office space in Dulles VA, while conducting poem recitals. Video conferences saves me time and effort, as it saves students from public fear.