Saturday, November 15, 2014

Death by Lecture

Can you remember the last time you thoroughly enjoyed participating in a training or lecture?  You may need a bit of time to dig deep in your memory banks to find the one training session that fired you up to make a difference.  Don't feel alone, until last week I hadn't experienced an entertaining speaker for several years and kept asking myself, "What makes them think they are such a good speaker or trainer?"

There are many presenters who simply talk to hear themselves talk without evaluating if anyone is interested in what they are saying. That's all to say that a trainer or speaker who never pauses to catch a breath is usually the only one learning about him or herself because no one else is listening.  I truly believe this is the reason text messaging is so popular, especially when we are not being entertained and given the exciting information that we hoped to discover.

Do you ever stop to ask yourself what you are like as a speaker or trainer? As a facilitator and trainer I am constantly practicing, learning from others and sharpening my presentation skills. A great trainer once shared a thought with me that I have never forgotten, amateurs work until they get it right, professionals work till it can't go wrong. I always strive to be a professional, always learning, always changing my presentation and listening to the audience.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness two great presenters. The first presentation was a short lunchtime event on media perception and the way we see things, or don't see things. Our overall intuition or perception can sometimes deceive us or have an impact on our decisions for projects or other related work. The presenter was the best I have ever witnessed. His presentation was tight and well thought out. In other words he was prepared and in sync with the audience. I watched him very closely as he would go into 10 or 15 minutes of lecture, move into an interactive video or activity and constantly checked in with the audience for feedback, comments and questions. When he ended we all yearned for another session with this energetic presenter. He shared two videos with the group about seeing the gorilla in the room.  Here is a link to the videos if you have not seen them. Monkey business illusion:

At another all day training on the topic of Crisis Communications and Management, hosted by Fleishman Hillard's DC office, the training was simply amazing.  Attending an all day training is usually a clear signal to me that your head may hit the table before the first morning break.  But this time I was dead wrong. Every presenter was entertaining, funny and full of information.  Each one was ready to answer any question and listen to comments from the audience. My favorite speaker of the day was Andy Card.  Mr. Card was the Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush. Initially I thought he would be dry and stuffy. To my excitement and surprise, Mr. Card was outstanding and great professional speaker that spoke for one hour without receiving a yawn from anyone in the room. He gave us factual information about disasters and crises, how to plan strategically, made his presentation interactive by including the audience in his discussion and he managed to keep us laughing while discussing a serious topic.  Truly a professional.

Here are a few tips that can make you a hit at your next training:
  • Know your audience well
    • It's helpful to obtain as much information as possible about your audience which will help you to tailor your presentation
    • Information can be received through online surveys, phone calls or a brief survey card when your audience enters the room
    • It also helps to mingle and welcome the audience when they arrive to get a true feel of their attitude, etc.
  • Talk to and not at your audience
    • No one likes to be lectured to, even when sitting in a college classroom
    • Include your audience in the discussion or presentation
    • Try to give capsule or bite size pieces of information
    • The average listener loses interest after 30 to 45 minutes unless they are included in the conversation and also able to contribute. Remember your audience are smart people.
  • Keep the audience engaged
    • When possible, move around the room, wearing a wireless microphone
    • If you are stuck on stage, try to move around or be as animated as you can be, you should be truly interested in the topic you are sharing
    • If you have a good sense of humor, this is a time to use it
  • Reasons that make you want to remove a presenter from the microphone:
    • Boring speaker
    • Someone who likes to hear themselves talk.
    • Someone who always runs over the allotted time and ignores all the warning signs being waved by staff in the back of the room trying to give them the cut it off signal.
    • Someone who reads the PowerPoint presentation or their notes to the audience. Almost like a bedtime story. I think that we are all able to read the slides for ourselves.
    • Someone who never looks at the audience.
    • Someone who lectures with their back to the audience so they can read the slides.
    • Someone who keeps switching glasses in order to see the slides or to read their notes.
    • Someone who starts the training by admitting that they are not a very good speaker and may be dry.
As you can see, this list could continue on until the cows come home, but I will allow you to add to the list and share your list with me. Death by Lecture -- simply not worth the pain.  Remember to have fun when you are presenting, your audience wants to love your presentation and are ready to have a great time with you.