April 03, 2014

Presentation Skills – a 5 Minute Primer

I want to build on my skills as a presenter and see presenting as a skill that I can get better at with practice and reflection.

I have got a book from SCS library, Present with Impact and Confidence and it offers a series of points in a 5 minute primer on presenting

  1. The best presenters all got there through practice, not by talent.
  2. Most people are better at presenting than they think they are..we amplify our weaknesses.
  3. Preparation is important - to a point - focus on winning support, getting buy in from audience, not just information giving.
  4. A good presentation takes into account audience wants, needs, interests, problems/concern - therefore ask yourself WHATS IMPORTANT TO THEM.....WHAT DO THEY KNOW ALREADY....WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO THEY HAVE when pulling together material.
  5. Less is more and keep it simple - dont overwhelm your audience with information but focus on key messages.
  6. For structure, brainstorm possible content, use spider diagramm, or index cards (put main points on them and then shuffle around - the structure will emerge.
  7. BEGINNING - Manage attention span - start with bang, give overview, summarise key messages.
  8. MIDDLE - use case studies, stories, illustrations to hold attention, vary voice, body language, slides.
  9. END - Summarise and call to action - make it clear what you want them to do....
  10. If you use notes, make sure they are reference, not script.
  11. POWERPOINT - no more than six bullets per slide, six words per line. Also use READ, ROTATE, REPEAT - read slide, copy main point to memory, then talk around slide.
  12. Be anti-perfectionist and realistic about your audience - they want you to do well, are interested in your expertise, opinion, topic.....
  14. Use one though, one person - take in everyone in the room.
  15. Use pause - this can eliminate, ums and ers.
  16. Think of questions you are likely to get asked - what questions do you as a presenter fear - some preparation can help you feel more confident here. If you dont know, say you will get back to them....

May 16, 2012

Status and The Imposter Syndrome

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

I used to have this tendancy to assign status to people based upon how they looked, their "title" or something they said within the first 10 minutes of meeting them. If I was going to deliver a workshop and present information for students, I would be looking for those students who "looked" like they would know more about the topic. Often I would be wary of PhD students - "surely they know more about everything than I do?" This was a terrible disability. You can be constantly wary of being found out - being discovered as the Imposter. You can be wary of exploring/discussing issues in too much depth in case your own inadequacies come to the surface.

And worst of all, you can find yourself preaching to someone who "looks pretty clueless" and is "only the receptionist" before discovering that they are experts in the field. I once helped an elderly black man who had fainted in the waiting area of a Chicago Hospital to the Emergency Room. As he came to, he told me he was HIV positive and I should be wearing gloves to examine him. He "liked my English accent" so I proceeded to "school" him about England. At some point he stopped me, "This is all really interesting but I listen regularly to the BBC World Service, those Shakespeare plays. They had Henry Fifth on the other night...". My preconceptions were blown away but I continued to presume things about people.

I still do this sometimes but I am now much better and viewing people as clean slates - at "shooting down" those thoughts about someones knowledge, beliefs, attitude to me. It is a hard habit to break but I try to approach people now without assigning them some level of knowledge or "need" for support. This helps especially when listening to someone. Really listening. Not listening for the next moment you can come in and demonstrate your level of knowledge but just listening. This is something that counsellors are taught. The skill to listen in the moment, without thinking forward or backwards, without feeling the need to jump in. My own experience is that this helps you to sense the emotion behind the words.

My job now is about helping people with CVs, job searches and interviews. This process is littered with concerns about how others perceive us (as job applicants). Students often ask if it is OK to approach employers with questions about the job, the status of their application, about whether their academic background fits the criteria. One student said, "I think I will be pestering the employer and it will affect my chances." I often ask students to try and put themselves "in the shoes" of the employer. Because the employer wants to get the right person for the job. They want good candidates to understand the process. They enjoy talking to students who are enthusiastic, talented and inquisitive. A conversation with a student may remove them from a chore that is a bit mundane. And then sometimes they get to talk about themselves, and we all (most of us) enjoy a bit of that! Many employers were once students. They know more about some stuff and less about other stuff than us. So while it is important to be professional in dealings with potential employers, it is important not to treat them deferentially or be afraid of how they will view you. Don't be afraid of going direct to the employer for information. The exceptions are mainly to do with asking questions that are clearly answered on websites and on application forms already.

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