Yesterday found me presenting with 4 fellow employees at day 1 of our organization’s annual 2 day professional development training. We’re back there again later today delivering the last of our two workshops to the staff who remained behind to deliver services to the public.
Let me say up front it was a huge success. I love it when the topic selected, the planning and the delivery all come together to make the opportunity for learning the best it can be. The only thing that one can’t control is the mood and attitude of those attending; even though you can influence them one way or the other with your delivery and content based on how relevant and useful they view the material covered.
Now I like facilitating; I mean I truly enjoy it and love investing myself in the delivery because I know how important it is to stimulate and entertain the audience so the presentation has some life. Ever been to a presentation where the material was fantastic and relevant but the speaker(s) were so dry and lifeless that you had a hard time concentrating? I know I have! So injecting humour, varying the pitch of my voice, addressing everyone with my eyes throughout our time together is something that comes natural to me. In short, I’m comfortable up there, and that level of comfort translates into the audience feeling that they are in good hands.
But not everybody enjoys standing up in front of an audience. The idea of getting up in front of a room of people who are looking to you for leadership, delivery of content with enthusiasm and expertise is absolutely scary for some and for others downright terrifying!
So I have to tell you then how proud I am of my co-facilitating team. We are part of a large municipal organization with 5 offices spread across a large geographic area just east of Toronto. In addition to myself, I had the pleasure of working with 4 others including 3 Social Services Caseworkers and the 4th is a woman who recently moved from her role as a Caseworker to an Employment Development Worker. None of the three facilitate as part of their job.
This is significant to tell you see, because in addition to getting together to talk about what we’d present and how, it meant we’d also need time to talk about presenting period. You know, getting over any performance anxiety, the butterflies and pressure your mind imagines. Standing up in the front of a room of strangers is one thing; standing up in front of your peers, many of whom have significant experience beyond your own can be daunting. After all, you’ll go back to working with these same people long after the two days are over, so you can feel tremendous pressure to excel so you don’t look foolish or just melt away up there in front of them!
Like I said earlier though, it was a huge success. We had a diversified audience too, made up of Supervisors, Administrative Clerks, Caseworkers, Employment Development Workers and Employment Counsellors; a true mixed audience. Some of the people in these roles don’t interact with our end-users in-person. Knowing this, we anticipated the need to make our material relevant not only to the professional life of each attendee, but also in their personal lives. The material could be transferred to their own development, identifying and moving past barriers standing between them and their goals. We also talked briefly about the what some see as the dreaded resume; best practices, getting past Applicant Tracking Software that employers use to weed out the bad from the good. All completely appropriate for the work we do on a daily basis, but also good for each participant individually; perhaps their kids, family or friends too.
It was this design borne out of the discussions we had at the outset, knowing our audience and the perspective they’d be coming from when in attendance that gave us the best chance of success. It was the actual delivery on the day which sealed the deal. Having been to many presentations, I know that the first 5 minutes generally tells me whether I’m in for a good time or not.
My colleagues Meaghan, Laurie, Amy and Julie truly pushed themselves outside their traditional comfort zones. They took the courage to volunteer and speak to a piece of the presentation, standing up before their peers and delivering. What a great bunch to work with. I’m so very proud of them all.
As for our attendees? It was extremely satisfying in both our presentations yesterday to have a few people voice their happiness with the material. One person actually texted her son on the other side of the country who is out of work at the moment with the information on resumes she picked up, and he got back to her and said, “Wow! I didn’t know that about resumes. Thanks mom!” So not only was it immediately relevant to the Caseworker, it helped her as a mother – and we all know our adult kids don’t always think we know much!
In one of the presentations, a Supervisor remarked she was going to make sure this material was covered as core training material for all new staff. So kind of her to share her feelings! It meant so much for us to know our material was relevant and appreciated.
To my presentation team, well done!