Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I recently attended DigiCon18. I was left with a few thoughts on the nature of presentations. I discussed this before, as well as the re-imagination of such spaces. I find this topic important to continually come back to as much as a reminder about what I myself need to improve upon as anything else.

  • Slow Down: I was in some sessions where presenters would run through all their material. I feel this is something that I sometimes do. One strategy is to provide points where you can stop and reassess.
  • Incorporate Storytelling: One of the things that stood out from all the keynotes was the power of storytelling. I was left thinking that if you do not have a story to tell, you probably need to start making one up.
  • Involve Humour: On the flip side to storytelling, it is important to include humour, this opens presentations and workshops to the human side. One of the hard things about this is that humour is often situational and cannot always easily be contrived.
  • Don’t say what doesn’t need to be said: If you are not prepared or do not know everything, do not admit it. I recognise that everyone is human, but more is lost than gained in my opinion.
  • Structured Hands-On Time: There were too many sessions that involved arbitrary activities. If you are going to provide people time, provide them with purpose and structure. This is something that I have been guilty of not doing well in the paste.

With all this said, I think that it is people that make a conference. Maybe above all else we need to start there.

If you were one of those people at DigiCon18 and had a reflection, I would love to hear it.

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Thoughts on Presentations and Professional Development by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

26 thoughts on “Thoughts on Presentations and Professional Development

  1. Thanks, Aaron.
    As one who has experienced the ups and downs of presenting at conferences and PD events for many years, I have learned the following:
    1. Create redundancy, technology will fail at the worst possible time.
    2. Keep slides simple, low text volume, non-distracting – don’t read directly from the slides (I’m not sure why, but I find this personally disturbing when the presenter is reading the same words I can see on the slide.)
    3. It’s better to have good questions rather than all of the answers. Learn peoples’ names, and use them. Personalize the conversations.
    4. Provide avenues for the conversation and the learning to extend beyond the session – invite learning relationships and social interaction.
    5. Model the learning vibe you aspire to create in the classroom, don’t have attendees sit in rows as you discuss the virtues of “maker spaces”.
    6. Solicit feedback from participants – spend time reflecting on the shared perceptions of your session – keys to improvement.
    I am nodding in agreement at your list – human first, presenter second! I have seen many terrific presenters, as well as, some who I found to be overrated. Good or bad, I try to take a stylistic approach from each session I attend.

  2. You would be a valuable participant at any professional learning session. This is valid feedback. When presenters relax, are well organized and have a deep knowledge of their subject it’s much easier to learn. The same practices can be applied to the classroom. Our kids love a few narratives thrown in with the explicit targeting of skillls with hands on learning activities

  3. Great points, Aaron! I often ponder this topic too.

    I agree with Bob who says that someone reading off a screen while you’re reading is a disturbing feeling.

    My personal approach now is to generally provide only images and headings on most slides unless there’s a simple table or something that needs to be shared. I found it hard to get to this point and I know others are still struggling with minimalist slides.

    I then like to share a Google Doc with notes and links for people to refer back to. If your presentation is useful to people who aren’t at the presentation, then maybe this isn’t the best approach.

    I’m interested in your thoughts on arbitrary activities too. I don’t see hands-on as a must. While I have been to some hands-on activities that worked well, I’d much rather sit and listen to an engaging speaker and storyteller than spend time on pointless activities. In fact, if I walk into a room and see butcher’s paper, textas, and sticky notes I cringe a little. Is that just me? Maybe!

    • Thank you Kathleen for sharing your thoughts.

      I find the ‘activities’ a challenge. I sometimes think that the opportunities provide a means of connecting with others. As I have shared elsewhere:

      CONNECTIONS: An important part of new ideas comes about through forming new connections. Dean Shareski argues that coming away with five new connections is more important than coming away with five new tools or ideas. I think that the challenge is to create the right conditions for this to occur. This includes the right environment, as well as structuring different activities. For example, DLTV had a makerspace at last years conference. To me this worked for I was not only able to make and do, but I was able to chat with different people while doing this.

      I think that it is one of those things that I will always ponder. Someone who I feel gets it right is Amy Burvall, but maybe it is not for everyone.

  4. Doug Belshaw reflects on a negative conference experience. In response he shares ten steps associated with running an event:
    1. Encourage participation
    2. Provide clear scope
    3. Ensure a diverse range of speakers/facilitators
    4. Challenge the audience with different views
    5. Have tracks and/or themes
    6. Provide space for chatting
    7. Recognise off-stage talent
    8. Provide a mix of session formats and lengths
    9. Get the food right
    10. Build a community
    This reminds me of a post I wrote a few years ago, but with more depth.

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