Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Keep your audience awake during a 6.5 hour seminar

I've been recently hired to present a 6.5 hour seminar for architects and engineers. I two engagements for the same seminar. The topic is interesting enough for the audience. I have already presented one hour of the presentation for a previous gig. I have a skeleton outline for the rest.

1. Flesh out the outline with the facts that I need to get across.
2. Get this into some presentation software/platform.
3. Create content.
4. Make it interesting.

The general mo in the industry is show a table of contents, slog through the data/procedures/examples, then repeat in summary fashion what you just presented. I find this style tedious and boring to listen to. It's a tired style. I enjoy This American Life and TED talks. These contributors of content tell engaging stories.

Objectives 1, 2 and 3 I can handle. Numero 4 is the challenge.

I need to find the stories of shallow foundations.

to be continued...

Here are some articles I found with useful presentation tips.

Update March 31, 2015

I've given this presentation about 6 times and have received good reviews. Some things I have learned that work well:

- Approach the presentation as a dialogue with the audience. Keep it as interactive as practical. Ask questions. Answer questions. Don't be afraid to let the topic drift a little to cater to the audiences interests.

- Get to know your audience in the first hour and adjust your pacing and material based on their appetite.

- If you don't know the answer to a question from the audience, ask the audience for help. This encourages discussion and information exchange and everyone comes away with something more.

- Draw. I purposely have not included all of my figures, drawings, sketches in the powerpoint presentation. I draw at least 2 sketches per topic on a white board or flip chart using colored markers. This engages the audience, adds a small element of suspense, keeps me focused on the material and gives flexibility to address the topic from different angles.

- Review the material after the presentation. Adjust notes, slides, diagrams etc based on what worked well and what fell flat. Each time it gets better and easier.

Rayban Wayfarers Sink

Last Saturday I went on a bouldering at Haycock Mountain, near Nockamixon State Park, in Quakertown, PA. On the hike in, we crossed a creek. While skipping in between rocks I bobbled to keep my balance. The resulting jerk of my body launched my sunglasses off the top of my head into the roaring creek which was swollen from Friday's heavy rains. I made a quick personal inventory and decided to let them take the dive in order to keep myself from falling in, and ruining the iphone that was in my pocket. After helping the rest of our group across without further incident, I searched for them for about 30 minutes. The creek was moving swiftly but was not much more than a foot deep. The bottom was quite rocky. The big question I had was did the sunglasses sink or float? This answer would alter the scope of my search. 

A brief internet search from the phone was futile and I walked on, squinting and pondering the probability of a future successful search.

We returned to the creek about 4 hours later. The flow of the creek was only slightly less and still too turbulent to clearly see the bottom in the area where I dropped the shades. Bummed, I returned home, still squinting.

The rest of the weekend was dry and I had the opportunity to return to the creek Wednesday morning. There had been to significant precipitation since and betting that the heavy plastic frames would sink I returned to the crossing. The creek flow was only about a quarter of what it had been four days earlier. I spotted the shades about 2 feet from their point of entry within about 5 minutes of searching. Question answered. Wayfarers sink.