The twelfth class for this running of Professional Practice was conducted on Wednesday the 11th of October, 2017 from 2:30pm to around 5:30pm. The full duration of the class was spent on presentations by final year Surveying and Geospatial Science students on businesses in the spatial industry.
The session required that all audience members review the presentations of the speakers. In light of this and the fact that I will be required to deliver a final year presentation next year, this blog will focus on the effectiveness of the presentations.
Presentations in General
There are some common rules for presenting that can be broken when you know what you’re doing, but, most of the time, it is safer to follow these rules than to risk not following them. Throughout the dozens of presentations, it seemed as though all of these rules were broken at one point or another.
One of the main broken rules that I find pretty difficult to tolerate is that, when presenting, you should “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, then tell ’em what you told ’em”. Apparently this catchy saying is a paraphrasing of something that Aristotle said, and I think that one of the main things that it offers the novice speaker is an easy way to let the audience follow the logic through a presentation. Many of the presentations during this session simply threw a bunch of information into the audience with the hope that the audience would figure out the point that was being made. Perhaps there was some dependence on the idea that the audience already knew the requirements of the business presentation, but, as one of the audience members that completed an alternative presentation, I was not familiar with the expectations of the business presentation.
In addition to the above, there were a lot of presenters who read from a script. If you want to read from a script, then learn it like an actor. Otherwise, know what you’re talking about and tell your audience. If you want to read to me, just give me the document and I’ll read it for myself. There are few presentations more tedious than the listening-to-someone-read-to-you presentations (maybe the I-haven’t-prepared-anything-but-I-need-to-present-for-a-certain-amount-of-time presentations?).
It is possible that I am being too critical of the presenters, which may in part be due to the fact that my day-to-day work for the past few years has involved standing in front of people and talking about things. Maybe if I wasn’t desensitised to being in front of an audience I would yearn for the comfort of a script and a podium to hide behind.
But what about the audience? They’re the ones who have to sit through your presentation. What about what the presenter owes to them?
I think that, in future, I will try to be even more aware of the feelings of the audience during any presentations that I deliver. I will also pay particular attention to the slot that I am allocated if I am presenting within a series of presentations. It takes time to cater a presentation to a specific audience, but it isn’t a difficult thing to try to do. And trying to cater to the audience would be better than not trying.
Presentations in Light of the Major Project Presentation Next Year
This session required that the audience give a mark to the presenters using a provided marking guide. Unfortunately, I found that the presentations very quickly blurred into one. To be fair, this may have been largely due to the fact that all of the presentations were on the same topic. Once the lines between the presentations started to fade, my marking scheme became much more subjective, and the presentations began to be ranked against the previous few rather than being objectively critiqued.
In the final year of the program, we are required to deliver a presentation on our year-long major project, and the presentation will be marked by members of the audience. Knowing that our final year presentation will be marked by audience members, and that it may be very easy for the assessing to become arbitrary, it seems as though it may be important to do my best to take advantage of the situation, rather than become a victim of it.
When presenting to an audience (both assessing audiences and audiences in general), where possible, it would be ideal to present in the following conditions…
- Don’t present first; you’ll be presenting against the audience’s fantasy expectations rather than reality. Let someone else calibrate the expectations of the audience
- Don’t present too far into the presentations; there was a general lack of charisma throughout the presentations. Too much boredom may drag the audience down too far. You don’t want to be stuck having to bring them back up again.
Following the Rules of PowerPoint Creation
During this session, there were very few (if any) presentations that used PowerPoint well. The shortcomings of PowerPoint presentations are well known, and, with some care, they are easy to avoid. If nothing else, it is important to keep in mind that PowerPoint is a tool and not a crutch.
One specific tip that I will bear in mind is that you should avoid using small graphics in slideshows. Just because it looks good on your computer monitor, does not mean that it will look good on a projector screen from the back of a lecture theatre.
Going forward, I’d like to keep in mind that it is always important to make a conscious effort to organise presentations well. Although these presentations were something of a showcase of “presentation don’ts” it would be easy enough for anyone to make any of the dozens of mistakes that are possible while making a presentation.
AlfaBravo – Presentation skills Do’s & Don’ts
Harvard Business Review – Five Presentation Mistakes Everyone Makes
Interactiv – What Bad Presenters Do Best
Business Town – Compelling Presentations: A Step by Step Guide
Six Minutes – Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking