I recently attended an all-day workshop presented by Pinnacle Performance Company. They work with high-profile presenters (and me) to perfect their presentation techniques. Here are three tips for handling audience questions:
1) Make certain you’re ready to answer. Avoid verbal viruses (ex. um), especially when beginning an answer. If you need time to think or get your thoughts in order, repeating the question can buy valuable time.
2) Don’t tackle questions for which you don’t have an answer. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know something, as long as you pledge to research the answer and provide a timetable for providing it.
3) Use your audience, a.k.a. crowd sourcing. Soliciting other opinions and feedback is a great way to facilitate discussion and take the heat off you for a bit. This is obviously not something you can do for every question, and you have to know when to take the focus back, but it can really pay off.
As the National Library of Medicine Training Center, we think a lot about things like: how can we make this presentation better; are we really reaching our audience; are we teaching or training; and other similar topics. In fact, every time we get ready to teach another session of a class we’ve taught multiple times before, we make revisions and tweaks to (hopefully) keep making it better.
This week, I came across a blog post by two writers who have been guest experts for Twitter chats sponsored by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development entitled, “The Cycle of Reflective Teaching.” This first sentence jumped out at me: “The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.” If this is true, and self-reflection is a skill that can and should be developed, how do we do that? While authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral target primarily those who teach in K-12 settings, there might be something here for all of us who do any type of training or teaching.
Here’s a summary of their key points:
1.) Stop. “We’re doing without really thinking about what we’re doing.”
2.) Practice. “Thinking about your work, as an act unto itself, will not singlehandedly make you a more reflective and effective educator.” Hall and Simeral outline the four steps of the Reflective Cycle.
3. ) Collaborate. “This work is far too complex, and far too important, to go it alone.”
If this topic piques your interest, read more in the full blog post or check out their book titled, Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building Your Capacity for Success in the Classroom.”
For me, I think I’ll keep thinking about my next class when I take my walk today.
NTC staff follow a number of blogs, online forums, listservs, and Twitter feeds related to learning and instruction. Jane Hart is a well-regarded international speaker and writer on modern approaches to workplace learning. Jane is the also the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4LPT), one of the world’s most visited learning sites on the Web, where she also compiles the very popular annual Top 100 Tools for Learning list from the votes of learning professionals worldwide. Her blog, Learning in the Social Workplace, was recently rated top of the 50 most socially shared Learning and Development blogs.
Recently, the blog published the Top 100 Tools for Learning for 2015. For the seventh year running Twitter is the Number 1 tool on the list, although this year it is very closely followed by YouTube, and, once again, the list is dominated by free online tools and services. Jane observes, “I can also see some interesting new trends in the tools that are being used for both personal learning and for creating learning content and experiences for others.”
Some “Big Movers” on the 2015 list – moved up sixteen or more places – including Skype, OneNote, SharePoint, and Kahoot. To read the full blog post, including the complete presentation of the 2015 list, visit:Top 100 Tools for Learning 2015.
We’ve all attended good online meetings and bad online meetings. What qualities make for a good online meeting? Here is a short list of suggestions on how to run a successful online session.
Use a slide to let people know they’re in the right place
Acknowledge that people have arrived
Open up a “question of the day”. Nothing difficult; just something to engage and focus people while they’re waiting for the “show” to begin
Mute all participants. Yes, we want attendees to ask questions and make comments. No, we don’t want to hear papers rustling or conversations with co-workers who stop by to visit
Explain how to unmute
Orient participants to the interface and tools
To quote the Rolling Stones: “We all need someone we can lean on.” Arrange for someone to work with participants who are having trouble with audio, to read questions from the chat box, to start and stop the recording, etc.
And…in case you haven’t seen the video that depicts common online webinar frustrations as portrayed in an in-person meeting, you can watch the 4 minute video below. Very funny and too true.
Carmen Simon is an executive coach at Rexi Media, a company that teaches presentation skills to professionals. I heard her speak several years ago at the Presentation Summit; an annual conference devoted to better PowerPoint presentations.
In a presentation posted on SlideShare.net, Simon identified 5 reasons why we forget the content of a presentation. See the reasons below and you can also view all of the accompanying PowerPoint slides.
Reason #1: We don’t pay attention to content in the first place.
Reason #2: Some information is too similar to other information.
Reason #3: Content is not processed deeply enough.
Reason #4: Too many presentations are factual and non-participatory.
Reason #5: The list of items presented is too long.
In January, I attended a presentation called Making Interactivity Count by Cammy Bean, Vice President of Learning Design at Kineo. You can find her slide deck on Slideshare and I recommend looking at her other presentations as well. Here are a few of my takeaways from her talk. Though her points were geared to the elearning environment, they are highly applicable to the face-to-face classroom as well.
When designing instruction, we try to incorporate interactivity. But what is interactivity? Interactivity occurs on a spectrum and can be human-to-human, or human-to-thing. Even thinking meaningfully can be interactive. Her four strategies for incorporating interactivity are:
1. Get them reflecting! Have your students practice integrating the content into their own mental schema. Ask a question to get them to stop, think, and apply what they have just learned. For example, what are you going to start doing, stop doing, or continue doing with this new knowledge?
2. Get them feeling! Make your stories or examples about real people or put the learner in the story. Ask them questions about the story or why it matters.
3. Get them acting! Build in worksheets or have students assess what’s going right or wrong with a scenario. For example, if you demonstrate a search that returns zero results, have your students determine why and how to fix it. Ask students what they would do in a given situation.
4. Get them connecting! Have your students talk to each other. Use a survey and share the results.
A few other words of caution from Cammy Bean:
Don’t add interactivity just for the sake of interactivity (or as Cammy put it, Beware the clicky clicky, bling bling!)
Be sure that the interactive elements have context
Don’t allow the interactivity to overwhelm the content
What are some new ways you might add interactivity to your classes?
Here is a collection of 6 tips for practicing a presentation or preparing for a class (with some added commentary by me).
1) Internalize don’t memorize: Knowing the content of your presentation is first and foremost. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use notes to keep you on track and to make sure you cover everything you intended.
2) Present out loud: The first time I did this I felt funny…not anymore. Practicing out loud helps me feel more confident and creates a sense memory…just like Hollywood actors describe.
3) Present standing up: This really makes a difference; make it part of the rehearsal. It’s related to that idea of sense memory again.
4) Present in the clothes you are going to wear: I can’t say that I have done this, but dressing appropriately for the occasion, whether it be a presentation or a snow storm, is important.
5) Time your presentation: I use the stopwatch on my cell phone. Remember to add some minutes to the total of your timed presentation to account for questions. Do the same if you are planning exercises during a class.
6) Visit the location of your presentation: Here at the NTC we travel around the country and teach in computer labs. When possible, we arrange to visit the lab the day before class so there are no big surprises awaiting us.
So, you’re about to give a presentation or lead a training session and like a good instructional designer you have a list of learning objectives that you want to cover. However, reading the list of objectives from a PowerPoint slide can be a dry way to start off. While you have everyone’s attention, make the most of it. I recently read an article called: 10 Ways to Yawn Proof Your eLearning. While many of us do not do eLearning per se, these 2 suggestions can work in a face-to-face setting as well.
Two ways to make learning objectives sound less boring and even possibly fun:
1) Frame your objectives as questions, eg., How can I find citations in PubMed that have been indexed as Review articles? Can’t you hear the crowd now? Woohoo!! We’re going to learn how to find Review articles. I can’t wait!
2) Sell the objective as a benefit and turn it into a one sentence promotion, eg., You’ll learn how to find evidence-based literature for all the requests from year-one medical students.