Building presentation skills

Here’s a group training method which worked for me.

In this post I just want to share my main takeaway from a whole day seminar on presentation techniques. And I have to break it to you that this takeaway involves rehearsing.

You might object with, “no, I would rather prefer keeping my presentations somewhat unstructured. Too much rehearsal and it just feels strict and unnatural.” Nevertheless, rehearsing the opening and the finish will do wonders for your presentation. An attention grabbing opening and a solid finish will give you the freedom to stumble a bit and make it up a bit as you go during the main part of your presentation.

Form a group of three and rehearse.

That’s the gist of it. But the training is a bit more special than that. Let me draw up a story of how this particular group training works.

Bill, Greg and Sue have gathered to practice presenting. Greg and Sue have their own business and Bill is a researcher who just want to get better at presenting his work. In other words, their situations, goals and audiences to which they will present will be different.

Sue says that she would like to be first out presenting. Sue asks Bill to be an observer and keep an eye on the clock as well her presenting. Sue then asks if Greg would be the receiver, and she explains that she wants to practice speaking in a business situation in which she’ll have to convince a stressed out 44 year old business man to grant Sue a second meeting. Both Greg and Bill now understand the situation, goal and audience of Sue’s presentation.

They set a three minute timeframe for Sue’s presentation. And after Sue is done presenting they switch immediately to a three minute feedback session. Thereafter they give Sue a second shot at giving a three minute presentation with another feedback session afterwards. And then they rotate roles before doing another presenting-feedback-presenting-feedback session.

Working like this felt like an efficient learning experience for me. The situation I was practicing for was presenting to a potential client who was a forty year old owner of a small business. During the presentation, me and my receiver would first greet each other and then I would start presenting. And when she asked some questions which she thought a forty year old small business owner would ask I have to admit I struggled. I searched for words, spoke too fast at times and my eyes roamed around seemingly searching for my lost words. But I got better the second time. And my practice partners' feedback was essential for this to happen.

Feedback is hard to receive and hard to give. There’s a lot to think about but that’s a topic for another post. Just remember that useful feedback often boils down to catching people doing something good. I hope this was some useful advice for you. We were given a lot more tools and techniques throughout the seminar which could be applied within this form of group training. However, the structure of the group training itself was my biggest takeaway. And whatever tips or tricks you may find online you may test those within this group training method.

A big thanks to the knowledgeable actors at ergo;ego for hosting the workshop and Impact Hub Bergen for the space.