Good Speakers are Gold.
I’ve been in many seminars and workshops, and every time I have the same question; “Am I going to be satisfied with the time and investment this presentation required? I usually evaluate the answer based on the following two things:
First, it is important to me that the speaker has relevant knowledge and expertise, but it is also important to me that the content is communicated in a dynamic and engaging way. Presentations are not graduate seminars, and when they are too technical (and boring), or when presenters read their slides rather than engage their audience, I usually leave dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction reflects not just on the presenter, but also on the organization that hired them.
Second, I attend presentations with the expectation that the information I receive will be cogent, impactful and of benefit. I find it frustrating if the information is difficult to understand, apply to my industry, or irrelevant to my background. I enjoy it when a speaker has taken the time to make the presentation relevant through key contexts within the scope of my background and interests. This, of course, takes effort on the part of the presenter; they have to research their audience beforehand and tailor their presentation to it. This effort is something I really appreciate.
Given these criteria, I am committed to the following principles in my presentations, whether they are in person seminars or live video presentations via zoom, etc. After all, I want to be invited back!
- I design my presentations to be engaging, accessible and to the point. I want my talk to have an impact on my audience and to be of benefit to them in a lasting way.
- I avoid death by PowerPoint. I find that slides distract the audience from what I am saying and divides their attention. Unless requested, I don’t use slides. Instead, I ask the audience to imagine. This intrinsically motivates attendees to retain information.
- I want my audience to think about my points. Therefore, I engage with them. Answering questions also facilitates retention. If one member of the audience is answering a question, then the rest of the audience is usually listening, and perhaps mentally answering that same question. Engagement unites the group and helps prevent inattentive minds from wandering.
- I use humor and wit. I have learned from years in the classroom that if you make people laugh, they lean into listening. Using humor to season my talks endears the audience not only to me, but also to remember the information I’m offering. Given the reality that within 24 hours, attendees will forget 70% of the information, I find wit and humor to be vital for retention.
- I provide custom web pages for all of my talks, and the URL is made available to the audience at the end. These pages serve as virtual handouts and reference materials to key point of the presentation. I wait until the end to disclose the web address so that my members of my audience are not distracted by their mobile devices. (In fact, I ask my audience to turn off or at a minimum to silence their devices,