Wednesday, 5 March 2008

What makes a good presentation?

Now that I have given my presentation and had the chance to watch some other presentations, I feel quite equipped to tackle this 'required entry'. (Maybe it would have been better if I could have carried out this reflection before my presentation, however time wasn't kind to me at that point..!)

I'm going to start this by thinking about what makes a bad presentation:

- Poor communication skills:
Not addressing the audience directly can make the audience feel like the presenter isn't talking to them!
Mumbling - so you can't hear what the presenter is saying - so what's the point in talking....?
- Inappropriate level of content:
The level of detail needs to be right. Too much detail and the audience will be overwhelmed by information and this might obscure the take-home message you are trying to convey to the audience. Too little detail and the audience will just not appreciate what you are trying to tell them, and the talk won't be informative
Content not directed at audience's general level of knowledge.
Need to make the content relevant and understandable for the audience, otherwise the message won't get through
- An 'uninteresting talk'
This is so important! If you don't make it interesting then people aren't going to listen.

There is a general theme across all of these observations -the point of a talk is to convey information to the listeners. You need to be sure what you want the listeners to get from the talk and that this is a reasonable amount of information that you can get across in the time. Presentation of your material is key to this as well, both visually (slides) and how you speak to the audience.

Having been at a couple of talks yesterday, I would have to add that there seems to be a threshold of time that you can talk to an audience for before they lose concentration - even if the audience is particularly keen to listen!

I've been trying to think of ways to get around this. Perhaps it wouldn't be too bad to disrupt the flow of what you are talking about, in order to give the audience something unexpected that attracts their attention. I suppose this should be relevant to the talk (although I remember a very good lecturer who used to stop half way through a lecture, show a random funny video, to give us a break from the lecture material - that worked well!) Another way around this would be to engage the audience in active participation, or to use sound or video as an alternative method of presenting information. I'd quite like to think of other ways around this as well - it would make my presentation style much better, I think, and more individual.

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