I just returned from beautiful Barcelona, where I was fortunate enough to spend a handful of days with the fine people of Bayer AG. Yes, I know that in one sentence I "big-timed" you and name-dropped, but we're all friends here. My job? I was entrusted with running two separate HR workshops - this particular audience included Germans, French, Irish, Asians, Turks, Brits, and (of course) Spaniards. I am none of these, and I have an accent just this side of Matthew McConaghy, so let's just say there was the potential for a communication breakdown. Especially with the French ~ its like they have a different word for everything.
The experience was wonderful, and thankfully the presentations were overwhelmingly positive. It's good to have a tough crowd every now & then; it will get the blood flowing and hopefully put you on top of your game. It also made me concentrate on the basics, i.e. the "process" of giving a good presentation ~ so, in no particular order of importance, here is some advice to help "haud combibo", a Latin phrase roughly translating to "no suck."
- Practice! ~ It would probably shock you to find out how little some facilitators actually prepare for their presentation. It's one thing to have an informal, conversational style, but its another to "wing it." Generally, a lack of preparation leads to....
- Reading ~ One benefit of preparing? You don't need much information on the actual Powerpoint slides. If you can't give your presentation blind, you haven't rehearsed near enough. The slides are an outline, a tease, not a primer for you to read out loud. Have the mind-set of an entertainer...no one wanted to see Sinatra reading lyrics, they wanted to hear him croon.
- Transitions make the difference ~ The really good facilitators are tying the slides together before they hit the clicker. When you rehearse, make sure you have transition statements down cold - makes you look like a pro. In HR, anything you can do to keep the attention of your audience is a benefit - giving them a verbal peek at what's coming is one way to do so.
- Move! ~ Sounds simple, obvious, and possibly horrifying, but you need to move while you speak. Not side to side, but throughout the audience. If it's logistically impossible, make sure you've visited both sides of the stage frequently. Standing behind a podium begets staring; staring begets zoning; zoning begets drowsiness; drowsiness will sink you.
- 50/50 ~ If you can manage a 50/50 distribution between you talking and the audience talking, you will find a very engaged audience. Nothing captures (or frightens) an audience more than a facilitator who just may call on them for input.
- Find your "Frenchman" ~ Generally speaking, you'll always have a slight percentage of skeptics in the audience. If it's a corporate HR workshop, odds are even higher they will be clustered together. Two tricks to nip that particular bud: Poll the class on a few "either/or" questions ~ separate them into 4 new groups based on their answers to these questions. Divide & conquer m'friends.
Not all of these tips will be relevant for your given presentation - you may be putting 500 people in the auditorium for Workplace Violence Awareness, so you can't exactly have a dyadic flow to the session; the important message is to remember that these people are being told/asked to listen to whatever it is you have to say. Do yourself a favor and make it worth their while, it won't be long before it's your butt in a seat.