By Career Advising Fellow, Danielle Golinski
After reviewing my mid-year report with my supervisor last month, I made it a priority to work on some skills for the second half of my fellowship. With the first half of the academic year, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the ins and outs of the fellowship; my confidence has grown and I am ready to consciously challenge myself. Where do I start? My presentation skills, naturally! I’m doing it all of the time in group/classroom settings and also during one-on-one conversations. I’ve already seen myself grow with my presentation abilities since I gave my first presentation to the SPDC last April for a part of the fellowship interviewing process, and since then I’ve given countless other presentations. I love it, but I want to grow. How will this happen? A science-like experiment! I’m going back to my high school days of chemistry where I fell in love with the scientific process and the method. But first, I’m Googling the scientific method (cue refresher course and the scientific jargon for your reading pleasure), and then I’ll be relating this to my presentation goals. I won’t be going too scientifically deep with my experiment, but rather, just a tip of the iceberg. Come with me and learn!
Scientific Method: A way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments (sounds simple enough!).
Ask a Question: How can I improve my presentation skills to not only grow my confidence but also to involve the students, increase participation, and improve overall presentation engagement?
Do Background Research: (common suggestions, particularly catered on areas of improvement for myself)
- Stand, rather than sit, and move around a little; be careful not to pace
- Make eye contact with the audience
- Talk naturally to the audience
- Vary tone, pitch, and volume of my voice; slow down!
- Watch for fillers
- Be entertaining; have fun!
- Be understandable: be free of jargon, complexity, and confusion – make the headline “Twitter friendly”
- Be memorable: “the human mind can only consume anywhere from three to seven points in short term, or ‘working memory’…the magic number – not too many and not too few – seems to be three” (Forbes.com). Incorporate the rule of three into presentations: three parts, three benefits, three action steps.
- Be emotional: storytelling is the easiest and most effective way to make a presentation remembered. Put this story in the beginning to make a connection with the audience – it can be a story, a question or a shocking statistic.
- Learn about the human attention span (please forgive my psychology background ‘geeking out’ right about now!):
- “Almost everyone listens in the beginning. This is THE moment to make clear that you will present work that the audience cannot afford to miss.
- If you want to get your message through, you should state it loud and clear in the beginning, and repeat it at the end.
- The best approach, however, is to divide your presentation in several parts, each ended by an intermediate conclusion. People in the audience who got distracted can always easily catch up with you, particularly if you outline the structure of your talk in the beginning”
Why does an audience get distracted?
- The structure of the presentation is unclear and hard to follow
- Speaker is too fast/too slow; monotonous sentences, long, complicated sentences
Construct a Hypothesis (or an educated guess): If I focus my presentation around the number 3, and break up my presentation into smaller chunks and summarize each chunk with a conclusion, work on moving around the room when presenting, and be conscious of my fillers, and volume then the students will be attentive during presentation, ask questions, and show engagement.
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment: Coming to the blog in Part II. You can certainly guess what the experiment is going to entail – actually doing the above!
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion: Coming to the blog in Part II
Communicate Your Results: Coming to the blog in Part II
Be on the lookout for my Part II! Starting next week, my presentations start for the spring semester. Hang tight, as I give this experiment a few weeks to work its magic.