I’ve been attending some professional conferences lately and been thinking a lot about how people present to colleagues. We’ve probably all sat through our share of painful keynote presentations and disorganized discussions. So, what makes a presentation successful? This week, I thought I’d share some ideas on giving a good professional presentation.
1. Complement your slides but don’t recite them. I’ve talked about Mayer’s Multimedia Principles in other posts but this is perfect example of how redundancy can actually diminish learning. When a speaker reads every word on a projected slide, the auditory and visual channels of the attendees are no longer working in concert with one another. This redundancy acts as cognitive noise which can diminish the effectiveness of the presentation. The gifted presenters I’ve encountered craft their dialogue to complement what they project to attendees.
2. Engage the audience. I find it surprising that many really good teachers devolve into didactic presenters when placed in professional conference environments. Rather than being the sole voice in a presentation, gifted presenters build discussion opportunities into their presentations to engage the audience and to get attendees actively involved in the content, not just at the start of a presentation but throughout the discussion.
3. Provide a roadmap early. Mayer refers to this as “signaling.” When a presenter provides cues to the organization of the presentation at the start, attendees will be more attentive and learn more. Each cue provides a destination along the presentation’s journey and helps to situate the attendee in the overall scope of the presentation. Many gifted presenters include a slide early in their presentations that identifies the major topics they plan to address and the overall sequence they will follow. This signals the beginning, middle and end of the presentation and better positions the learning that occurs.
4. Too much is too much. You’ve probably seen the slides which are bursting with lines of text. Segment the content into more digestible chunks and project only the most important terms and concepts. Take a look at TED videos where presenters expertly craft slides that showcase only the most critical concepts and terminology.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than filling that slide with bulleted and numbered lists, good presentations include graphics that can convey large amounts of information more concisely. In Mayer’s multimedia research, people learn better from words and image rather than from words alone. The same principle can apply to presentations.
6. Be conversational. Some presenters want to write out their entire presentation and recite it verbatim. The recitation, however, can sound automated and forced and have a negative impact on attendee’s learning. Rather than script the entire presentation, consider developing an overall map of the discussion and identify several bullets for each concept along the way. Use the map to guide a more conversational presentation with attendees.