9775924 - business presentation

As leaders, we have all been called to train, inspire, motivate or educate others in group sessions utilizing PowerPoint or other presentation software.  We have also sat through some well intended readings of bullet points in the front of the room veiled as training.  It feels familiar to have line after line of information flashed on the screen, while a knowledgeable instructor “covers” the material while we take notes.  This is how we were likely taught during high school and college.  Fortunately, the Science of Instructional Design is progressing rapidly and moving away from lecture based design in schools and workplace due to low learner engagement and even lower retention of the material presented.  For this reason, we must carefully evaluate our next meeting, class or presentation to insure that we maximize the impact of the information.  Use the three strategies below to create more targeted presentations or workshops.

W.I.F.M. – This acronym “What Is in it For Me” is imperative especially when working with Adult Learners.  Adults have developed a keen sense of filtering in and out pieces of information based on the perceived importance.  In workplace training or workshops, the adult learner needs to understand early on how this information will positively impact their life.  A recent study by Microsoft pointed out that our attention spans continue to diminish down to 8 seconds from 12 seconds just a decade ago.  We need to grab attention, make it important and do it early.  Relate to your audience the “pain points” and how this material will make their work, home or income improve.

The Why and What – Consider early in your planning why you are leading this meeting or training and what you want your audience to feel, retain or do differently.  Use the phrase, “As a result of this meeting/training/presentation, I want for my audience to _______________”.  If you aren’t sure what that is, or you have a laundry list of several things, then you need to drill down to determine precisely the objective you are driving to reach.  You will want no more than 2 or 3 objectives in one session.  Be very specific, and continue to synthesize down the objective to a something that is clear and measureable.  Let’s look at two examples for comparison.  Let’s say you are giving a presentation to a group of sales associates regarding a new product line.  You may be tempted to create an objective that reads something like, “As a result of this presentation, my audience will understand everything about the new widget”.  You then bomb them with every spec, every dimension, every marketing piece, every warranty item and the list goes on with absolutely too much information.  Let’s distill this down into 2 objectives that have some kick.  Since it is a new product, your objective might read something like, “As a result of this presentation, the audience will offer this new widget enthusiastically and early in their interactions with clients”.  This is much better since we can design the presentation to address this very specific objective.  Another better example might be, “As a result of this presentation, my audience will be able to compare the new widget to other similar widgets and explain the advantages”.  In our bad example of an objective, we download everything we can come up with in the hopes that something sticks.  In the specific examples we are using a rifle to pinpoint the exact messages, while the broad bad example is a shotgun approach providing a smattering of pebbles without focus.

Pick Your Vehicle – Pick one ONE vehicle to deliver each message.  If there is material that needs to be read, then hand out something to read and shut up while everyone reads it.  If you are going to present some information verbally, don’t put any information on the screen except a relevant image.  Your audience isn’t sure whether to read the screen or listen to you, and they can’t do both simultaneously.  Reading can be difficult for many, and if the information can be read why waste the money having an in person session?  Engage your audience by storytelling, and inviting them to relate similar relevant experiences while guiding the conversation toward your objective.  Invite your entire audience to participate in conversation insuring that this dialogue stays on track.  Activities may feel unimportant or childish, but they are more effective than reading or listening to improve retention.  There are lots of online resources for activity ideas including TrainingCourseMaterial.com. Break the audience into groups to solve a problem, or discuss options and potential roadblocks.  Have each group present the results of their conversations.  Use the free Kahoot! to build interactive quiz competitions during the session.  Eliminate anything “nice to know” and focus on concise “need to know” messages that support your learning objectives.

Spending time designing your next presentation may feel somewhat cumbersome, but using a rife to hit a target takes more precision than the shotgun.  You owe your audience the very best, and you deserve a return on your time investment.

Jacqueline Massey-Hughes has spent over 20 years in Human Performance Improvement and Sales Development in the Home Furnishings space. She is the founder of The Furniture Trainer which works with both manufacturers and retailers to develop cost effective online training programs, and learning management systems.