Want To Be A Better Presenter?…Watch Others With An Eagle’s Eye

I’m an unabashed lifelong learner. I’m quite sure I got the learning bug from my dad, an electrical engineer, who at 87 continues to read, learn, and take on new projects almost daily.


CC Image courtesy of Airwolfhound on Flickr

Over the years, something I’ve realized about learning from my dad and others, is that the starting point for learning is awareness. For example, awareness of our surroundings (and the people in them) continuously puts us in a position to notice things we can learn from, if we choose to.

Recently, I attended a two-day conference hosted by CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies), a part of the local Blue Valley school system. As you might expect with a conference format, there were a variety of short workshops to pick from on both days.

I picked the sessions that I felt would provide the best return on my investment of time and money. I wasn’t disappointed. The entire program was outstanding. I came away with lots of valuable notes, and was able to start up a number of new professional relationships.

However, one session stood out from the others. Why? Because the presenter, Pat, took a number of specific actions that prompted me to sit up, pay attention, and get engaged.

Here are four of the most valuable presentation points I picked up during Pat’s (name changed for her privacy) presentation:

  1. Interact With The Audience – In addition to her ability to build strong rapport with her speaking style, Pat enhanced some of her interaction with us by using a whiteboard. On multiple occasions, she asked for our input and then wrote down our comments as we gave them.

    In what’s often a one-way, “Death by PowerPoint” world these days, it was refreshing and engaging to have a presenter take time to ask for our thinking, and then actually write down what we shared.

    After each short whiteboard session, I captured the comments with my iPhone camera.

  2. Share Stories And Examples – Pat is a director at an out-of-state school system that has had only one year of experience with offering a CAPS curriculum, but her start-up stories were pure gold.

    Her examples of working with all three stakeholder groups (students, parents and business partners) were just what the “rookies” in the audience needed to help them shape and kickstart their own CAPS programs.

  3. Minimal Slides With Minimal Text – Pat did use some slides, but they were used more as an outline and a roadmap versus being the driver of the entire presentation. Plus, each slide was limited to bullets containing only a few words, instead of lengthy sentences.

    Again, much like her use of the whiteboard, her minimalist approach to using slides was refreshing and noticeable.

  4. Know Your Stuff – What a difference it makes when a presenter is truly an expert who knows her content. This was evident time and again as Pat shared her experiences, answered specific questions, and shared story after story without having to rely on a set of slides.

    She also knew when it would better serve us to answer our own questions. In other words, she knew how to effectively flip questions back to us. In my book, this is one of the signs of a true pro.

Attending Pat’s session turned out to be a wonderful way to not only learn the content of her program, but also to learn some effective presentation techniques by closely observing a professional in action.

Questions: What new helpful tips, tricks or ideas did you pick up while attending a recent presentation?  On the other hand, what did you learn NOT to do? You can leave a comment by clicking here.