As I’ve mentioned previously, I frequently use competition to emphasize the importance of presentation skills for my students. I’ve recently attended webinars that have made me wonder why so many academics are so bad at delivering presentations.
Here are a few examples of what students, and their instructors, should learn about presentations, based on recent personal experience:
- Technology is not your friend. One webinar had four different presenters, each using a microphone set to a different volume level. None of them knew what the other sounded like to the audience that was watching and listening remotely. Also, a lot of microphones run on batteries, and when the battery dies, the microphone does too. It’s also fun when the computer that is showing the visuals has a screensaver set to kick in every 10 minutes during a 90 minute presentation, or pop-ups for Java updates keep appearing.
- If you spend 30 minutes using phrases like “what I would like to talk about is” and “we’ll mainly be focusing on,” then your introduction is much much too long. Get to the point. If we see student writing with paragraph after paragraph of these phrases, we draw a big red line diagonally across the page. Why do academics ignore this basic rule when they speak to an audience?
- If you are reciting text, keep it off the visual aids. But if you’re referring to quantitative data, people need to see it in some form.
I’ll be discussing additional presentation experiences over the next few days.