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.

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