Ida Shessel believes that every expert, speaker, and coach who leads a presentation, training session, or seminar can get their message across in a dynamic engaging way. For over 20 years, she has been teaching presenters from around the world in the fields of technology, finance, pharmaceuticals, government, and more how to engage their groups and create effective learning experiences. Ida is the author of several business books including Communicate Like a Top Leader: 64 Strategies Top Leaders Use to Engage, Encourage, and Empower Others. You can learn more at http://idashessel.com.
In this conversation, Ida talks more about the Outstanding Presentations 2016 webinar series.
Geetesh: Can you tell us more about your recent webinar as part of the Outstanding Presentations Workshop?
Ida: My recent webinar for the Outstanding Presentations Workshop was called 3 Mistakes Presenters Make that Keep Their Audiences Bored and Disengaged—and How to Fix Them.
The purpose of the webinar was to help presenters design and lead engaging sessions—from short informal presentations to training sessions, seminars, and workshops.
The first half of the webinar was about raising awareness of the following three common presenting mistakes.
Mistake #1 is ignoring the learning needs of your audience members
Why does this mistake happen? Presenters either don’t know about or ignore the needs, wants and likes of the people they’re talking to because they’re so focused on getting their message out.
Most presenters assume that they are standing at the front of the room in order to show off their knowledge. However, in reality, attendees are not coming to hear the presenter speak. They’re coming to learn something from the presenter. So, instead of being impressed with the presenter’s depth and breadth of knowledge, it’s more important that participants are impressed with what they themselves are learning and can confidently do as a result of the session.
Think back to a really good presentation you attended and then back to a really bad presentation you attended. Many of the things you liked about the first session and disliked about the second are a direct result of your learning needs, wants, and likes. In general, the learning needs, wants, and likes of your audience members are not all that different from yours.
Here are just a few of the things that participants in my workshops have told me that they like:
- Challenging ideas
- Practical uses for what they’re learning
- An organized knowledgeable instructor
- An opportunity to participate, e.g. discussion, hands-on-practice, brainstorming
So the key to avoiding mistake #1 is to do some quick research. Ask people what they’ve liked and disliked about past presentations they’ve attended. Then use that information to plan an effective session for your audience.
Mistake #2 is too much focus on platform skills.
Platform skills are the presenter’s performance – voice, word choice, and body language.
Performance skills are important, but too much emphasis on them puts the focus on the speaker. Where should the focus be? On the most important person in the room – the audience member. Without the audience, the speaker is speaking to an empty room!
Rather than a presenter of information, think of yourself as a facilitator of learning. Sharpen your facilitation skills and spend more time:
- Encouraging participation
- Asking more questions
- Guiding attendees in analyzing and thinking critically
- Reinforcing and debriefing learning
- Providing feedback and coaching
Mistake #3 is poor session design, and it happens as a result of the first two mistakes you’ve just learned about. What does poor design look like?
- Too much information dump (lecture)
- No interaction, discussion, or exercises to process and reinforce learning
- No practice and coaching
- Poor or no materials or media, e.g. slides, handouts
- No organized structure (e.g. road map, formula, numbered system of steps)
Why does this matter?
You have to remember that people are overwhelmed with information these days. It’s coming at them from many different directions. They don’t need more. If we want to make a long-term impact, then we as presenters have to break through all that “noise” and design our sessions in a way that our audiences can understand the significance of our information and apply it to their work or personal lives.
Avoiding These Mistakes
So how do we fix or avoid these mistakes? During the second half of the webinar, I introduced the 5-step Rock the Room Road Map. This is a template I created for designing and leading sessions that get and keep participants’ attention, make learning stick, and help participants implement what they’re learning in your session. It’s based on the concept that you as a presenter are a tour guide leading your audience members on a learning journey.
Step 1: Preparing for the Trip
- Know your audience members
- Develop your objectives, key points and sub-points
- Plan how you will carry out steps 2 -5
Step 2: Starting the Trip (the audience members are assembled in front of you)
- Establish a positive learning environment, e.g. set expectations, create a comfortable environment both physically and psychologically, provide the agenda and objectives
Step 3: Navigating the Road
- Present the points using a variety of techniques
- Orchestrate participation and active learning
Step 4: Staying on Track
- Use reinforcement techniques
- Debrief the activities
Step 5: Arriving at the Destination
- Re-confirm and finalize the learning
- Wrap up and link out to “What’s next?”
The Rock the Room Road Map infographic is available for free download by going to http://idaspeaks.com/rr-roadmap
Geetesh: How do you engage audiences? If there’s just one advice you had to give to someone who has to present in the next 15 minutes, what would that be?
Ida:The most important piece of advice I can give someone is to spend time exploring the audience’s understanding of “What do I do with what you’re telling me?”
You want to have a long-term impact on your audiences – create raving fans so that they come back to you for more and refer you to others. The best way to do that is to ensure they know how to use what you’re sharing with them.
Leave enough time to discuss the following questions at key milestones during your presentation.
- How does knowing this information benefit you?
- How do you think you can use this information?
- Are there any modifications you need to make for your own circumstances?
- What support do you need in order to implement this information?
If your audience is large, have your participants gather together in groups of 4 or 5 people to discuss the questions above. Then, conduct a large group debrief and have a few spokespeople summarize their group’s discussion. Hearing how others interpret your information and its usefulness is a great learning for both you and the rest of your audience.
Be sure to give your audience members opportunities throughout your session to practice using and getting feedback on the information you’re sharing. Depending on the topic, you can give them hands-on-practice, a small case study, or a problem-solving scenario. Since you’re an expert in your topic, you should easily be able to draw situations from your experience. Alternatively, feel free to ask the group to suggest a realistic situation in which your information can be applied.
Interaction is the key to audience engagement.