3 points and a poem (for presenting)

26 February 2014

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After attending (or watching) a series of presentations (continuing education classes) or some other type of lecture where someone was speaking with a PowerPoint presentation, I’ve developed a couple of strong opinions thoughts about how one should present in these situations. We have such limited time to do anything outside of work or family time that when we attend a conference, class or even a weekly meeting within one’s own office, don’t waste others’ time and don’t waste your own.

Know your audience
Find out ahead of time the audience to whom you are speaking. In my case it is usually architects, with occasional contractors, and a few engineers. It is important to know who the majority of the audience is so you can tailor the presentation to them. In other words, don’t present general information that most or all architects already know. It’s insulting.  If you have special knowledge or special information for which this audience can benefit, let’s hear it. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear someone spouting off everything they know about a subject and we all hate a sales pitch. Edit your material.

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Know your timeframe
Let’s face it, none of us are that interesting that someone else wants to listen to us for very long. The fact you’re still reading this humbles me because that’s just the truth of the matter. When given a time frame, find a way to figure out how to end on time, or better yet, early.

In my studio, I coach my students on giving presentations. We give them a time frame to present and make them practice. It’s a bit like storytelling to make it interesting. We ought to do the same for a formal presentation. Figure out how many seconds per slide or whatever you need and then trim it down.

When you go over, what you are basically saying is “I’m selfish and what I have to say is far more important than anything else. My time is more important than yours and the presenters that are going to follow me are just going to have to wait or their time will be reduced.” Is that harsh? Is that true?

This goes for a board meeting or an informal meeting in an office. Have an agenda, stick to the agenda and don’t let the side chatter or after meeting social talk extend the meeting. Adjourn the meeting promptly, take no more comments and let everybody go back to wherever they need or want to be. If you want to keep talking, take it elsewhere. I am going home.

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Know what is useful
The reason we are attending this meeting is you must have some knowledge or information that I don’t know. We live in a world that is full of information and Google is at my fingertips. If you are going to be presenting information to me, tell me something that I can’t find out quickly from researching the web. More importantly, I need to know how to use the data or how to interpret the data. How do I make decisions? All of the other technical information can be discovered on our own time. If I have to listen to you, I want to know why this information is important and how or why one can make decisions about this material. Then tell me where I can find additional information when necessary.

Above all of that, feel free tell a joke, share a poem or something else briefly in there along the way to keep it light. Tell everyone else to turn off their phone, show respect and have a wonderful meeting.

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photos are from fredjk’s stock photo gallery on Stock.Xchng (used under the Standard Restrictions)

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8 Responses to “3 points and a poem (for presenting)”

  1. jane Says:

    I have decided that I disagree.
    I am thinking about 2 recent lectures.

    One was given by a local historian about the evolution of a street scape over 50 years. The room was full. He hurried. Many people wished he had included more pictures, lingered longer at certain locations, perhaps taken questions on the spot, not waited until the end. We wanted to discuss with him, learn more from him.

    The second was a continuing ed. workshop and about life safety and.historic buildings. It was excellent, dense and intelligent, very well attended. I found myself disagreeing with some of the premises… However, there was little time for questions or comments, so the kind of dialog that comes from thoughtful discussion among peers – which we were – did not happen.

    In both cases I am left with useful information. But the ways that we apply that information, our conclusions were not challenged.

    • leecalisti Says:

      Jane, you actually agree, but in a backwards fashion. If he would have known his audience, he would have been prepared for a dialogue not a lecture. I prefer this setting – I don’t prefer lectures. I am often left hungry after a lecture because I wanted to ask my questions. This shows me he didn’t address what you really wanted to know.

      • jane Says:

        The historian should have known his audience – he was born here!
        In the Cont. Ed. case, I didn’t know what I ‘really wanted to know’ before hand. I also hoped questions by others would give me perspective. Didn’t happen.
        I think I have talked (written!) myself into giving presentations that are dialogues! Good. I will enjoy that.

      • leecalisti Says:

        This still proves my point. The historian or any other presenter can get bogged down in presenting everything they know. My specific blog was based on a CE class that was technical and one where the attendants were desiring to learn how to adapt the technology in their own offices. We had a few sessions where a good presenter who had several questions being asked had to end because the next person had to get up next. In this case I didn’t want them to end but to have a dialogue. The audience didn’t want to listen they wanted to converse and the planners of the event didn’t allow for it. BTW the next presenter was miserable. We all love a good conversation.

  2. jane Says:

    PS: I read this carefully because I will give 2 presentations this spring and have been asked to consider a 3rd.
    I appreciate having your thoughts to add to mine as I prepare.

  3. Perry Cofield Says:

    Here in Wonk Central (DC) presenters often unload everthing there is to know about something and more at 400 wpm for 45 minutes and longer. This can get tiring. Coudn’t agree with Lee more.

    PC

  4. FiELD9arch Says:

    I am not often asked to give presentations, but i did have the opportunity to participate in the first Pecha Kucha Mansfield a few months back. It is a great format for keeping things condensed and to the point. Plus the slides advance automatically, so you have to keep moving.

    But i do sit in my fair share of meetings that seemingly have no purpose or direction…

    Great post.


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