By Daryl Spreiter
We’ve all attended a training session or meeting where we sat quietly and stared at slides while listening to a presenter drone on about this and that.
For the presenter, it was more important to get through their slides than engage with the group. The session ends with the presenter asking the group to “reach out by email if you have any questions” while the attendees walk away not retaining any new information. This is a huge problem, because it’s ultimately a waste of time for everyone involved.
While slides are a great tool for training or pitching, they should not be the primary vehicle to convey your message. To begin, don’t think of the event as training or a meeting, think of it as an experience. To create a meaningful experience, the audience, presenter and facilitator need to get their hands dirty -- and that means getting involved. After all, the whole point of bringing a group together is not to give them eyestrain, it’s to change the way they think, act or work. We want to create “learning that sticks.”
Here are eight steps to create a presentation that will be more of a "learning experience," resulting in a rich and rewarding environment:
1. Engage and energize. This is the primary role of the facilitator. The energy in the room must remain high and participants fully engaged. Walk the room and show interest in the attendees. If you don’t, learning won't stick and attention wanders. This in turn creates a disengaged group, which is disrespectful for the speaker and may result in a declined invitation for future events.
2. Anticipate. Always think ahead for what's needed, what could go wrong and be ready for anything. For example, if a presenter is going to show a video,make sure you dim the lights, have VGA adapters (for Mac and PC) and slide clickers ready with fresh batteries nearby.
3. Challenge. While the facilitator will most likely have strong knowledge across all session topics, work to encourage discussion in the room before jumping in and answering questions. Also, redirect questions to the presenter, so they can fill in the blanks and remain the expert. This is valuable for their ongoing coaching and development as a speaker in this program.
4. Connect the dots. The facilitator is the only one in the room that knows the content, agenda and speakers. It's important to create connections for the participants, so they see the "big picture" and hopefully they'll experience an "aha" moment.
5. Respect the agenda and break times. Many of your presenters will come from other buildings and floors and have meetings scheduled before and after the event. Time management is extremely important. Stick with scheduled breaks or let the group know you're making an adjustment. If a break is missed, attendees will become preoccupied while waiting and learning won’t stick.
6. Be prepared. All session materials should be printed and prepared in advance and handouts delivered before the session. Presenters may cancel at the last minute, arrive late or finish early. When this happens, it’s your job to create meaningful moments during this downtime. Make use of extra time by having a go-to list of filler activities and discussions that you can quickly launch. And, there is always time for a physical or mental energizer.
7. Recognize. The success of the program depends on the presenters. Always recognize presenters and session leaders. Never underestimate the power of public recognition!
8. Celebrate with gratitude. Thank all attendees during the closing session. Recognize their hard work and attention throughout the week. Share how much you personally appreciated their contributions. For a memorable moment, ask all attendees to share a key take-away, action item or commitment they’ll keep after the event. These feel good moments will create learning that sticks!
-Daryl Spreiter is Senior Director, Global Enablement for the Salesforce Foundation