Presenting about Presenting

cogs and wheels

It’s often good to follow your own advice

Last Friday I presented to a group of health practitioners (registered dietitians) at their annual conference. The topic was “presentation skills” – an important element of their professional practice, as dietitians frequently work with various client goups experiencing complex and challenging health conditions. They are not just presenting information. It’s more about inspiring and motivating health behaviour change when the stakes are high.

I have always found that ‘presenting about presenting’ poses a particular set of mental challenges. Audience expectations are generally higher than the norm and my expectations of myself are correspondingly escalated. I have to keep reminding myself of the axiom that any presentation needs to feel more like a conversation than a performance. That means focusing on the audience’s learning needs, goals, and practice challenges, as opposed to my own ‘performance’.

And mirroring the dietitians’ clinical practice with groups, the information that I shared was nowhere near the most important part. (There’s a whole library of books written on presenting and facilitating, covering more content and in greater depth than any 45 minute talk could ever do justice to.) Sparking some lively critical reflection and dialogue (internal and external) about the pitfalls and best practices for us all to pay attention to when presenting to groups was the most meaningful part of the session.

It’s often effective to follow one’s own advice, and happily I was able to come reasonably close to putting into practice the four themes of my session:

1. Stop performing

2. Engage everyone

3. Transform your slides

4. Make it sticky.

OK, maybe I didn’t engage absolutely everyone – but on my way out of the room the A/V guy did give a big thumbs-up, and let’s just say that hasn’t been a uniform experience. I say, gather your nuggets where you find them!

acorn in forest

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