Monday, January 10, 2011

Public Speaking: Creating a Favorable Learning Situation

With the world of technology changing at such a rapid pace, it's not surprising that more and more presentations are being geared towards the technological side of learning, or the "hard skills" types of programs. The nature and content of these programs has to be different from the "soft skills" or motivational programs because the needs and the expectations of the audience are different. The attendees look upon the time spent as a learning investment. They expect high content to be delivered in an understandable and usable manner during the allocated times.

Humor, as an end in itself, will not be appreciated. It's best to use humor that is specific to the discipline and that will probably only be understood and/or appreciated by the attendees who have an intimate knowledge of the topic. (General humor will be considered as time wasting and not relevant to the topic.) Stories are another good type of humor. Stories to which the attendees can directly relate, and ones that demonstrate practical methodologies of what to do
or what to avoid, will assist the attendees in empathizing with the information being taught. On the other hand, typical "shaggy dog" stories and tales that would normally bring the audience to tears or result in a standing ovation will fall flat when addressing a technical audience.

Most technical session attendees are used to receiving information through a highly structured and organized means. They generally appreciate a bulleted outline of what is to be covered and expect the presenter to cover all of the points promised in a timely and expeditious manner. Time will become critical because of the volume of information to be delivered without leaving out anything important.

Always evaluate your material for flow and time allocation and remember that the audience has no idea of what you leave out, as long as you address each point promised to some degree.

If you are concerned about having too much material for the time allocated, seriously consider creating a detailed handout with all of the relevant information and only address the spots of critical concern in the presentation. Technical audiences always appreciate having a written document with lots of details that they can refer to later.

As with every other learning situation, your presentation should be geared to the needs of the participants. The most important characteristic to consider for a one-to-three-hour session is the demographics of your participants. Demographics are not just age, sex, income, and education, although these may be very important to know. You also want to know the learners' level of knowledge about the subject, their problems and needs, and how they are going to use the information you are giving them.

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