Tag Archives: P2I

The best Ignite presentations are when the presenter stumbles over words [Guest post by Kevin Flora]

Kevin Flora from edmatics.org

Kevin Flora is an evaluator and blogger at edmatics.org who watched, recorded, edited, and uploaded all 56 Ignite sessions from the 2012 AEA conference.

Ignite sessions… a presentation format started by O’Reilly that I thought would never stick around. The more I conduct my own presentations, I feel as though the audience engagement and personal enthusiasm is a direct reflection of my content. If this theory holds true, then the Ignite format should be more prevalent due to its ease of producing laughs and forcing the presenter to stay on top of their information. Essentially, there are 20 slides. Each slide advances automatically every 15 seconds whether the presenter is ready or not. Are you doing the math? Yes, it’s a 5-minute presentation.

The one thing I love about this format is the first-time presenter! When initially signing up, the thought is, “How hard could this be? Five minutes? That’s easy enough.” Well… I have found that it takes just as long to prepare for these 5 minutes as it does a 45-minute presentation, if not longer. Everyone wants to look at notes or the presenter view on the PowerPoint screen, but the best presentations are when the presenter stumbles over words, gets behind (or ahead) on their timing, and forgets why he/she used a particular image in their slide deck. I have heard that the more Ignite presentations an individual does, the less interesting they are to the audience because of the ability to almost perfect the structure. These are meant to be fun, with pictures, stories, and yes… screw-ups once and awhile.

Ignite presentations can be used for multiple purposes. My favorite Ignite session was that of Michael Szanyi at the 2012 American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference. His use of interpretive dance brought the data visualization and reporting topical interest group (DVR TIG) to their feet and moved some to tears. Szanyi produced an unrivaled passion for how his form of art and expression should be used in visualizing data. Szanyi not only memorized his slides, but the timing, movement, and slide descriptions. After seeing his 5-minute production, I saw where the future of Ignite presentations and evaluation was headed. This glimpse of our future was a sight to see. Here is Szanyi’s presentation:

After watching 56 presentations, it is difficult to find a comparison to Szanyi’s performance, so I will mention a couple of other neat ideas. The DVR TIG conducted their entire business meeting with the 5-minute presentation format (watch them all here), milking cows was related to strategic learning (here), and an improv Ignite was attempted (which made for a hilarious 5 minutes. Thank you Chris Lysy). Check out Chris Lysy’s improv Ignite here:

The Ignite format is both interesting and fun… informative, but short… and effectively cultivates an atmosphere conducive to questions, collaboration, and further discussion on certain topics. All 2012 AEA Conference Ignite videos can be found on the AEA YouTube channel.

Connect with Kevin Flora through his blog at www.edmatics.org or @edmatics on Twitter!

Is Your Audience on Facebook? [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

Isaac Castillo is leading a 3-part series about public speaking skills and nonverbal communication for evaluators. Isaac has taught public speaking and debate at the high school and college levels, and he was an All American debater before entering the evaluation field. I hope you enjoy reading his third post.  — Ann Emery

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Part 3: Is Your Audience on Facebook?

When people ask me what is going on in my mind when I give a presentation, I answer them by saying: “I’m reading the audience.”  But what exactly does that mean? 

In presentations, nonverbal communication works both ways.  In previous posts I have discussed how your movement and gestures as a presenter can further emphasize your presentation.  However, your audience is using nonverbal communication as well – and learning how to interpret these cues can help you turn around a struggling presentation or allow you to make your content truly inspirational. 

As a presenter, you not only have to present your material, you have to observe audience members to see if they are paying attention to you or if they are updating their Facebook status.  But how exactly do you do this?  

I look for people’s behaviors.  Engaged audience members will look right at you, will shake their heads in agreement or disagreement, will take notes, or ask questions.   Audience members who have lost interest will be taking notes or working on devices but never look up or at you, will be holding side conversations, or will yawn or look around the room continuously.   All of these are signs that you have lost some members of the audience and that you will soon lose many more.  This is the time to change things up and re-engage people.

So how do you re-engage your audience when you have lost them?  That is where you can use some nonverbal techniques such as movement around the room, verbal techniques such as changing the volume of your voice, or even changing the flow of your presentation.   Telling a personal story or giving a real world example also frequently gets people re-engaged.  

The key thing to remember once you have lost your audience is that you need to do SOMETHING different.  That something different may be something as simple as moving around the room or telling a new story, or it may be more drastic like taking an unplanned break.  Don’t be afraid of these situations – like a good evaluator, just keep in mind that sometimes an approach will fail and you will need to implement a different presentation approach to improve the outcome for the audience! 

Additional Resources:

Tips for Beginners:   See eye to eye.  Making eye contact, even only briefly, is important.  It provides you with the opportunity to make a connection with an audience member, and it holds their attention.  Try to make yourself switch eye contact with a different audience member every minute of your presentation.

Tips for Veterans:   Improve your ability to read the audience quickly.  Try this little exercise (you’ll need help from 1 or 2 people to act as an audience).  Give a practice presentation, and have your helpers sit in different parts of the room.  At regular intervals (no more than 1 minute, no less than 15 seconds) the helpers should hold up SIMPLE math problems (1+1= ; 5-3= ; 2×3= ; etc.) in the audience, and you should be able to read them, and answer them (aloud or in your head) while still giving your presentation.  This will train your brain and your eyes to be looking for cues from the audience, interpreting them, and doing something about them during the course of your presentation.

Tips for Experts:   Engage the daydreamer.  Nothing brings someone’s attention to you like actually directly engaging them in your presentation.   When I see an audience member losing focus or working on something else, I often directly engage them in one of several ways.  I may ask them a question or ask them to provide an example.  I stand or sit down next to them and tell them one of my stories or examples directly.  These approaches get daydreamers to re-focus and provide a change of pace for the rest of the audience.

–Isaac Castillo, @isaac_outcomes

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Related Posts from Isaac:

And then he flashed a slide that made the whole room gasp… [Guest post by Jen Hamilton]

Today’s guest post is from Jen Hamilton, a.k.a. superwoman. Jen is an experienced evaluator, the communications committee co-chair for the Eastern Evaluation Research Society, and, perhaps officially now, an evaluation blogger. Check out Jen’s previous posts about the magical ingredient in potent presentations and evaluation theory. Enjoy! Ann Emery

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And you were worried about your socks…

After writing my previous guest post on conference presentations, I’ve been thinking about them a little more.  Specifically, what to do when something goes wrong. I don’t mean a glitch, I mean, horribly, terribly WRONG.

There’s the usual suspects when you think about what might go wrong with your presentation. You forgot your flash drive on the plane, your socks don’t match, you forgot to wear socks, the projector doesn’t work, nobody except your mother is in the audience, EVERYONE is in the audience—the list goes on and on. The over-riding worry is that you are going to come off looking like an unprofessional, inarticulate doofus in an ill fitting suit.

I’m here to tell you that these worries pale in comparison to the worst presentation I’ve ever seen, and how the presenter turned it around.

This was in 2009 at a professional conference, and the room was full. Not just of regular geeks like me, but also with big famous geeks who have stuff named after them. The presentation started well enough, the equipment worked, the presenter was wearing socks, and was reasonably articulate. And then he flashed on the screen a slide that made the whole room gasp. From this slide, even I could tell that the study that he had designed, and worked so hard on, had a giant, fatal flaw. He had made a whopper of a mistake in the design of the study. I saw it. I looked around, and could tell that EVERYBODY had seen it. I considered sneaking out of the room so I wouldn’t have to watch the inevitable bloodbath.

A big famous geek raised his hand, and the surprised presenter was soon sporting a horrified expression, as the magnitude of his mistake sunk in. Everything he had done was tainted. And here is what he did. Instead of explaining and getting reflexively defensive, he said. “Oh, boy. Look at that,” pause, “That’s a problem, isn’t it? I can’t believe I missed that.” Instead of smelling blood, the audience rallied to his defense, pointing out (kindly) how it was easy to miss, and then they started brainstorming ways to fix it. Basically a room full of smart people were working together to salvage his study.  It went from a presentation to a brainstorming session. The presenter was furiously taking notes. It was uplifting, and not only that, I learned more from the brainstorming than I ever would have from the original presentation.

So. The lesson is –don’t ever get defensive. And don’t worry about the socks.

— Jen Hamilton, @limeygrl

Movement as Speech: 3-Part Series on Nonverbal Communication [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

Isaac Castillo is leading a 3-part series about public speaking skills and nonverbal communication for evaluators. Isaac has taught public speaking and debate at the high school and college levels, and he was an All American debater before entering the evaluation field.

He writes, “When presenting in person, many people focus intently on what they will say and on the slides or other content that they will present visually.  However, there is an equally important component of in-person presentations that can greatly improve your affect on the audience:  nonverbal communication and body language.   In this three part blog series, we will cover how you can make the most of your movement, your hands, and your eyes to improve your presentation.” I hope you enjoy learning some of Isaac’s strategies.  — Ann Emery

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Part 2: Movement as Speech

Isaac Castillo, Movement as Speech

How and when you move around a presentation space can greatly improve your presentation – particularly when speaking to a large audience.   Far too often, speakers remain rooted to a podium or table – using it as some form of crutch or security blanket.   But leaving those safe confines (if done effectively) can further emphasize your points and keep your audience engaged.   How can you make sure you are using movement most effectively in your presentations?  Here are some tips…..

First, plan out where you are going to move to during your presentation.  Try to get to your presentation space early and look at the layout.   Is there ample space for you to move from one side of the room to the other?  Are there chairs and obstacles in the way?  Will the projector shine in your eyes if you stand in a particular spot?  Actually walk the space and make a determination if there are bad spots to move through and avoid them.

Second, reconsider things once people show up.  If you end up with a crowded space, or many people in the front, you may want to limit the total area where you will move.   Conversely, in a very open space that is not crowded, you’ll want to move more to keep everyone’s attention and to make the room feel smaller.

Finally, remember to move with a purpose.  Do not wander across the room or pace across the stage.  Move to make a point or to keep the audience engaged.   If you find yourself wandering during a presentation stay still for several minutes and then only move again when there is a natural break in your content.

Additional resources:  this blog post offers some interesting things to keep in mind when considering movement for your presentation:  http://www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com/non-verbal-communication-element-5-body-movement/

Tips for Beginners:   Make yourself move at a certain time!  Keep an eye on your time, and remind yourself to move at certain time intervals.  When I first began speaking regularly, I would make myself move every 5 minutes.   Moving at certain intervals keeps your audience engaged (since they should be following you with their eyes) and also provides good natural breaks in the flow of your presentation.

Tips for Veterans:   Match verbal transitions with movement transitions.  Movement in a presentation is best done when it complements your words – so try to match your movement around a room with good transition points in your presentation.  One of my favorite things to do is to move to emphasize important points or to transition from one concept to another.

Tips for Experts:   When appropriate, try to move into your audience.  There may be times in your presentation where moving to the back of the room, or even sitting down in the audience can help make an important point.  You could move to the back of the room to keep less interested audience members engaged or focused, or sit down next to an audience member to recreate a situation.  You will certainly get people’s attention, and hopefully add another layer to your words.

— Isaac Castillo, @isaac_outcomes

Getting Handy in Your Presentation: 3-Part Series on Nonverbal Communication [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

Isaac Castillo is leading a 3-part series about public speaking skills and nonverbal communication for evaluators. Isaac has taught public speaking and debate at the high school and college levels, and he was an All American debater before entering the evaluation field.

He writes, “When presenting in person, many people focus intently on what they will say and on the slides or other content that they will present visually.  However, there is an equally important component of in-person presentations that can greatly improve your affect on the audience:  nonverbal communication and body language.   In this three part blog series, we will cover how you can make the most of your movement, your hands, and your eyes to improve your presentation.” I hope you enjoy learning some of Isaac’s strategies.  — Ann Emery

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Part 1: Getting Handy in Your Presentation

Isaac Castillo, Getting Handy in Your Presentation

“What do I do with my hands?” is usually one of the first questions novice speakers ask when working with me.  My answer:   “Use them, but use them constructively.”   

Your hands can be a compliment to your words in many ways, but if you have too much going on with your hands you can distract your audience.  The key is to find a happy medium, don’t use your hands too much, but use them enough (and correctly) to improve your presentation.   Here are some quick tips to get you started:

First, if you are worried about what to do with your hands, try this:  keep your arms slightly bent, with your hands slightly open at your sides.  Fight the urge to do ‘something’ with your hands and embrace doing ‘nothing’ with them.  You should relax your arms and hands and let them hang – do not try to force your hands into unnatural or uncomfortable positions.   Much like when you are walking, your arms and hands should be relaxed and by your side – and they will naturally flow with your movement.

Second, don’t force the gestures with your hands.   As human beings naturally learn to talk, they also naturally learn how to use their hands to emphasize points.   So do what comes naturally – with one exception – if you are a ‘hand-talker’ then you need to reign it in.  Too much hand-talking only distracts from your message as the audience focuses on the fury of fingers rather that what is coming out of your mouth.

Additional Resources:  Toastmasters has produced a very useful document on how to use gestures in a presentation: http://www.toastmasters.org/201-Gestures

Tips for Beginners:   The mirror never lies.  Try telling a story to yourself in front of a full length mirror to determine how you naturally use gestures.   Some of us naturally use our hands (or even use them too much) while others lock our hands to our sides (or behind the back, or in ‘fig leaf’ position).   Figure out what you naturally do and work on correcting the gestures for more formal speaking.   It will be uncomfortable at first to ‘watch’ yourself speak in front of a mirror – but it will greatly help you understand what your audience sees when you present.

Tips for Veterans:   Anything below the waist is wasted!  Once you have mastered using the right amount of gestures, then focus on keeping all of your gestures above your waist.   When presenting to a group, only the first few rows will be able to see your body below the waist – so you need to get your gestures up higher to make sure everyone sees them.   Just make sure to keep your gestures below your head – not because people need to see your beautiful face, but because gestures in front of your face stifle your voice and lower your volume.

Tips for Experts:   A gesture can be worth a hundred words.  There are some concepts that can take dozens or hundreds of words to explain, that can be simply communicated with a gesture or movement.  Try to use a specific gesture or movement in each of your presentations that saves you dozens or hundreds of words.

— Isaac Castillo, @isaac_outcomes