Was that any good?

When most presenters step from the stage their main feeling is relief, relief at having finished, relief at having survived, relief at having not failed. The real question though about the presentation should be, was that any good? Determining how good a presentation actually was is more complex than one might imagine. How does one determine if a presentation was any good?

The most obvious answer is audience feedback. This may be immediate or delayed. Immediate feedback is difficult to interpret. During a presentation inexperienced presenters can be put off by their own perception of the response from the audience. “Resting face” is however not a good assessment of quality in a presentation. Nor is the cliched introduction to a question asked from the floor, “Thank you for your presentation, I enjoyed it very much.” Unfortunately the same epiphet will be used for every single presentation given that day, not all presentations were that good.

How good a presentation really was is usually almost totally unrelated to how the presenter feels the presenter the presentation went. Immediate self reflection usually includes assessment of the delivered presentation versus previous rehearsal (you did practise didn’t you??), This is not of value as the audience receive only the delivered presentation and have nothing against which to compare so even a presentation that fails to meet the expectation of the presenter may in fact have met the needs and expectations of the audience. Importantly the p cubed value of a presentation is that assigned by the audience.

Formal feedback on the quality of presentations is notoriously poor, late and usually affected by multiple factors rendering it a blunt tool for the presenter seeking to use it to improve. A single audience member may share unfiltered opinion that dramatically affects the presenter, feedback may itself be very poorly quantified and non specific, effective feedback is hard to offer and actually one may even question the value of such diverse and disorganised feedback as to whether a presentation was any good.

The best assessment of a presentation comes from a combination of self reflection at a distance from the delivery itself and a trusted, forewarned audience member who has a specific question to answer. The purpose of feedback is for the presenter to reflect on their presentation overall and to improve for the next presentation. The structure of that reflection might be best as a review of the three parts of a presentation aiming not to deconstruct but for future development. Minute breakdown of a presentation is seldom valuable as the same will never be given again; even the same topic revisited will be for a different audience in a different place at a different time and therefore different.

The answer then to the question, “was that any good?” can be viewed as the product (p cubed value) of the message (p1), the media (p2) and the delivery (p3). Actual numbers are of value only to qualify those answers rather than quantify and compare presentations across time. A presenter should be able to assess whether the message they intended to deliver was received by the audience, did the media work to support that message effectively and was the delivery appropriate? Some influence on that discussion should be derived from interaction with the audience after the presentation. Beyond polite comment one can understand if the message has been received and valued. A few trusted and forewarned audience members can help a presenter to reflect more specifically. This is best done by asking particular questions about facets of the presentation and deciding was that any good?

Presentations are complex. Assessing whether a presentation was any good is only of value in making the next presentation better. Reflect on improving a message, increasing the support the media gives to a message without adding distraction and the ease and nature of delivery. It is not perfection that should be sought but improvement as the audience will only receive the presentation once and their comment will be, “How good was that!””

The post Was that any good? appeared first on p cubed presentations.

Was that any good?

When most presenters step from the stage their main feeling is relief, relief at having finished, relief at having survived, relief at having not failed. The real question though about the presentation should be, was that any good? Determining how good a presentation actually was is more complex than one might imagine. How does one determine if a presentation was any good?

The most obvious answer is audience feedback. This may be immediate or delayed. Immediate feedback is difficult to interpret. During a presentation inexperienced presenters can be put off by their own perception of the response from the audience. “Resting face” is however not a good assessment of quality in a presentation. Nor is the cliched introduction to a question asked from the floor, “Thank you for your presentation, I enjoyed it very much.” Unfortunately the same epiphet will be used for every single presentation given that day, not all presentations were that good.

How good a presentation really was is usually almost totally unrelated to how the presenter feels the presenter the presentation went. Immediate self reflection usually includes assessment of the delivered presentation versus previous rehearsal (you did practise didn’t you??), This is not of value as the audience receive only the delivered presentation and have nothing against which to compare so even a presentation that fails to meet the expectation of the presenter may in fact have met the needs and expectations of the audience. Importantly the p cubed value of a presentation is that assigned by the audience.

Formal feedback on the quality of presentations is notoriously poor, late and usually affected by multiple factors rendering it a blunt tool for the presenter seeking to use it to improve. A single audience member may share unfiltered opinion that dramatically affects the presenter, feedback may itself be very poorly quantified and non specific, effective feedback is hard to offer and actually one may even question the value of such diverse and disorganised feedback as to whether a presentation was any good.

The best assessment of a presentation comes from a combination of self reflection at a distance from the delivery itself and a trusted, forewarned audience member who has a specific question to answer. The purpose of feedback is for the presenter to reflect on their presentation overall and to improve for the next presentation. The structure of that reflection might be best as a review of the three parts of a presentation aiming not to deconstruct but for future development. Minute breakdown of a presentation is seldom valuable as the same will never be given again; even the same topic revisited will be for a different audience in a different place at a different time and therefore different.

The answer then to the question, “was that any good?” can be viewed as the product (p cubed value) of the message (p1), the media (p2) and the delivery (p3). Actual numbers are of value only to qualify those answers rather than quantify and compare presentations across time. A presenter should be able to assess whether the message they intended to deliver was received by the audience, did the media work to support that message effectively and was the delivery appropriate? Some influence on that discussion should be derived from interaction with the audience after the presentation. Beyond polite comment one can understand if the message has been received and valued. A few trusted and forewarned audience members can help a presenter to reflect more specifically. This is best done by asking particular questions about facets of the presentation and deciding was that any good?

Presentations are complex. Assessing whether a presentation was any good is only of value in making the next presentation better. Reflect on improving a message, increasing the support the media gives to a message without adding distraction and the ease and nature of delivery. It is not perfection that should be sought but improvement as the audience will only receive the presentation once and their comment will be, “How good was that!””

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This is how not to do it

The White House Press Spokesman Sean Spicer is, sadly, not a good example of how to perform in public. Under the glare of the world’s press his performance as well as the information he delivers is scrutinised. His most recent presentation on the infamous Wall provides an unfortunate critique of common views on powerpoint presentations. This is how not to do it.

The Press Briefing room at the White House is a small room seating only 45 people. Consider the image belong, taken from the back of the room. What do you see? It’s actually very difficult to see anything. One is immediately drawn to the man, he is pointing to his right but it is impossible to actually focus on anything, attention is drawn immediately back to his face as he is looking into the audience. How many actually realised there is a duplicated screen on his left? Fewer still can actually pick out and identify what the images are contained in each screen. Further visual distract is on the podium, a message repeated behind him and then a flag. This is how not to do it.

sean spicer

The screen is an adequate size for the room. The images within the presentation are woefully small. It is impossible, even at this range to figure out what the images represent. They would have been much simpler to understand delivered separately.  Even if one chose, wrongly, to present four images within one shot spacing out the images would have improved interpretation. This is how not to do it.

There is no need for dual projection in a room that is only 6 seats wide and 7 rows deep. The screen on the right of the speaker is redundant, made more so by his use solely of the opposite screen as seen. Dual projection does not make things clearer in fact it forces the audience to constantly scan both screens for fear that there is a difference. This will occur with every slide change. This is how not to do it.

Even a presenter Mr Spicer is failing. His body language instructs us to be aware of the screen but because he continues facing the audience they will focus on him, not the image. The use of a single, pointing finger is demonstrative and authoritarian; it is an instruction. In the interview he is berating the audience for not understanding what a wall is. Body language changes interpretation. This is how not to do it.

One might question how many of the White House Press Corp present in the White House Press Briefing Room were unaware that they were in The White House, in Washington and must have this repeated for their benefit. The flag is fairly standard for this setting but interestingly has been crammed in behind Mr Spicer as there is no space for it. This is how not to do it.

It’s not that this hasn’t been done before… Don’t crowd the stage. There is never a need for dual projection duplicating an image. Make images within slide visible from the back of the room. Four images deserve four slides. If you want the audience to look at an image, look briefly at it yourself and gesture with an open hand. That is how to do it.

don't crowd the image

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No caption required

In a scientific article an illustration or a figure is accompanied by a caption. There is no caption required in a presentation. Images should exist by themselves without a complex description. Conversely a slide and in fact the whole of the p2 should be useless on its own without some explanation. In a presentation the caption is delivered by the presenter not the slide. Understanding this concept will help presenters develop presentations where no caption is required.

no caption required

Part of the problem with slides in a presentation is that presenters feel the need to add more and more detail to a slide in order that it might be understood on its own. Titles, details, description, explanation, references, icons and the like are added adding to the visual complexity and detracting value with each addition. An image should be able to stand alone; no caption required.

It is clear though that adding a word or two may alter the meaning of an image completely. The value of this should not be underestimated nor the dramatic value of that word appearing on the image after some time. (This can be achieved with animation of duplication of an image, the second with the word superimposed.) Such annotation is often oblique or challenging rather than purely descriptive. If one presents a picture of a wall, it is unnecessary to add a description; no caption required.

Data images and in particular graphs should be handled differently in a presentation from a publication. They are different media. The context of an image in a presentation should be immediately obvious, in a publication a caption is required. Explanation however may be used as a replacement for a title aiding prompt interpretation; no caption required.

A slide cannot stand alone. It should fit in context with the delivery, add meaning and not distract, no caption required.

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On pink elephants

The mind is a very strange thing and sadly it doesn’t always respond in the way we would like it to. Here is simple example. Close you eyes and do NOT think about pink elephants. It’s like that with body language.The more a presenter thinks about body language, the worse their body language becomes. And as sure as elephants are pink, trying not to think about your body language is like the pink elephants currently dancing dancing through your consciousness in a scene from Fantasia.

 

 

There is an idea that circulates the presentation community that the majority of meaning from a presentation is derived from body language and only 7% comes from speech. The Mehrabian myth simply isn’t true. Except in very, very specific situations. Of course delivery is important but it is not a mime show, it’s the product of the story, media and delivery. Words really are the most important part of our presentation. Body language has an effect but not 93%.

A defensive stance, huddled behind the lectern, holding on for grim death and staring intently at the monitor tells the audience only of fear and devalues the message. Similarly the presenter who moves constantly around the stage like a caged animal will negatively affect their reception. Trump hands, choppers and mixers are unaware of what to do with one’s hands and can even become hypnotising in their own right. It is important to be in control of the message our body is sending.

Yet the challenge to simply “be natural” on stage is effectively the pink elephant problem; the harder one tries to be natural the more wooden one becomes; simple strides across the stage can appear as complicated as Japanese Kabuki and even trying to stand still may overwhelm the already busy mind of many a presenter. Being natural appears entirely unnatural. This is where effective practise is successful. Practise is not simply recitation but purposeful, recorded, reflective rehearsal with review. A smart phone or a helpful friend will advise but change requires positive steps and further rehearsal not simply trying ignore the elephant. Presentation is a performance, not a reading and effective practise will dramatically improve it.

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