If you think back to your days in high school, College or University, you can perhaps recall all too well some of your instructors. Thinking back, no doubt you can recall the really invested ones who made the material they taught authentic, the learning was fun and they used creativity to bring the content to life. Conversely, you can remember those for whom it appeared were just going through the motions with monotonous tedium.
Well if you fast-forward to the present, you might find that in some of the classes or workshops you are attending as an adult this same reality exists. You can spot someone who is excited about sharing their knowledge and experience from someone who isn’t invested in the learning. Those who aren’t usually present the material very factually, there isn’t much you can openly question about the content, but the method of delivery leaves something to be desired.
This for many is the crux of the problem. While the actual information being shared is valuable and welcomed, it is the method of delivery – how it is shared that often makes a difference. The difference from someone just getting the intellectual information and someone getting both the information and receiving it in such a way that it is memorable. When its memorable, its potential to stick and have everyday opportunities for implementing that new information increase.
So why then is it that some facilitators who are academically well qualified are not the most effective presenters? A second question might be why is it that once effective presenters seemingly lose their ability to deliver an impassioned message that fires change in their audience?
First of all the answer to the first question might have more to do with a persons skills. A person may be extremely knowledgeable about a subject; possibly the leading authority on a subject, however they lack the skills to effectively share that knowledge with an audience in such a way that their audience is equally inspired. Not everyone is suited to deliver information and content. Not everyone is similarly suited to put in the work to uncover and learn how to engage an audience on many levels. So you naturally get some quite smart people who only know how to share that knowledge one way – stand and speak.
Good presenters, like good teachers, use a multitude of approaches to share their information. They employ humour, speak with varied tones in their voice, use an appropriate but not excessive number of gestures and body language. Some employ slides, question and answer, video, role-playing and even dramatic silence to punctuate what they consider to be an important piece they want to drive home.
Authenticity means keeping it real. If you have ever heard someone pitching a product they are paid to pitch but don’t believe in, you know what it means to be disingenuous. Companies don’t want people pitching their products who come across as fake or phony, because then the product by association comes into question too. It works in reverse too; a person who values their reputation will be extremely selective when promoting a product, and won’t pitch something they know to be a scam because they by association will be less than trustworthy themselves.
So back to facilitation you might deliver or experience. If your work puts you in the front of others then I implore you to rekindle if need be your passion for the topics you share. Maybe you need a new or more creative angle for delivery. If you can’t find that passion or excitement about your subject matter that you once had, understand your ability to leave any kind of lasting impact on your audience is also compromised. Now the question is do you care enough to do something about it?
If you find yourself in the audience when someone is facilitating, you’ve got a responsibility too. Oh yes you do. It’s up to you to invest yourself in the experience and make sure that before you leave you get the most you can from having listened. Far too many people go to presentations, sign the attendance sheet to get credit for having been there physically, but they mentally never arrived or checked out early. Respect the presenter and the material.
If you are texting during a presentation, only getting invested in socializing at break time or are the first one all packed up to go 20 minutes before the speaker is due to finish, you’re not invested. And that’s a shame, because you or more likely your employer has paid money to give you an opportunity and you’re wasting it.
To get the absolute most from a presentation, sit at or near the front. Avoid folks who distract you with passed notes and whisper snide comments. Ask a question of the speaker, comment and participate in group work. Instead of making a dash for the door, introduce yourself to the speaker and comment on something you heard; even question something politely.
The best presentations occur when both the speaker and the audience are engaged in the time they spend together. Both have responsibilities and both should be working to get the most out of the time together. There is a joint responsibility for learning, and speakers often learn from their audiences too; what goes over well or like a lead balloon.
Immerse yourself whether you are in the audience or addressing one.