Presenters, take charge!

20/02/2012 Comments Off on Presenters, take charge!

I went to music camp this weekend. Think Glee without the massive budget. I was a parent helper — janitor, lifeguard, roadie. Lotsa fun.

The first morning, an outside music teacher came in to run one session. He was a consultant, although no one called him that. His session was designed to get the kids warmed up, excited, and working as a group. He did it really well. By the end, the kids were singing in harmony and moving in unison, fired up for practicing the rest of the day.

The key to the whole session was that he took charge. The kids were all there to participate, the teachers had turned responsibility over to him, and he took charge of the group. He led them through four or five exercises in a bit over an hour. For each one, he clearly told them what to do and then led them through it.

The same is key to a good presentation. When you are asked to present to a group, you have to take charge of the room and the group. They have already granted you permission — they have asked you to speak and they’ve given you a place at the front of the room. Tell them why you are there, tell them what you are going to talk about, and then get to it.

The second important thing about the music session is what it wasn’t. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t technical. There were a few simple harmonies and a few easy steps. But I’d say that a quarter of the kids there had the technical skills to run the session. They just didn’t have the presence or the permission.

Most presentations should also be simple. They should be light on the technical details, which are best handled in written reports or in conversations afterward. The aim is to communicate the big messages. You can point to the existence of technical issues, but they should not be central.

A common reservation with novice presenters is that they aren’t really the experts. So-and-so over there in the audience is really the expert. Again, the music consultant showed that technical knowledge is not the core of a presentation. Permission to be in charge and the presence to take charge and run the show are much more important.

That’s my key message: Presenters, take charge! Do that, and you can get the whole group singing along with you.



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