Monday, August 16, 2010

Pointers for Presenters

Having retired from the world of education I now have some time to devote to my hobby/passion for family history. Over the last eighteen months I have  attended a number of seminars and talks on genealogy and related subjects. Some presenters have been excellent and some have been downright woeful. Some of the genealogy presenters I have seen could do well to watch and learn from the presentations I have seen given by Australian students in our schools.

Having knowledge of a subject does not qualify one as a competent and engaging presenter.

Prompted by Thomas MacEntee's announcement that he has published a book " Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker"  I have decided to make a few suggestions for Australian speakers. Each of these points could have helped one or some of the speakers I have heard recently.

  • Update your knowledge of the topic
  • Get prior information on your audience 
  • Be prepared, have backups of your presentation
  • Prepare a handout or disk for distribution to participants or provide links to the presentation on the internet
  • Practice your talk in front of a trusted and honest friend or colleague and use their feedback to polish your work
  • Maintain regular contact with the hosting organisation
  • Dress appropriately for the situation 
  • Arrive early and check setup

  • Set the scene by giving some background information on yourself
  • State the rules of the game - Are you happy to be interrupted or do you want people to keep questions to the end?
  • Start with an overview of the presentation's content - Outline your goals for the gig
  • Display enthusiasm or passion for your subject
  • State your relationship to products being demonstrated - Some talks are thinly veiled marketing exercises/infomercials - Be honest and upfront about your connections to vendors/products
  • Speak clearly, coherently and with animation - Engage your audience through good communciation
  • Avoid Death by Powerpoint - You are the presenter
  • Sprinkle your talk with anecdotes and analogies - but don't overdo it
  • Use visual aids and artefacts to embellish your talk - Cater for individual learning styles of participants
  • Involve your audience - Ask them questions, get them to comment on a photo or artefact
  • When showing internet sites connect to the site - avoid screenshots - use them as backups for times of technology failure 
  • When talking about software - Accompany with a live demonstration
  • Be honest - If you don't know the answer to a question say so  
  • There may be experts in your audience who can add value to the event - Accept their comments graciously

  • Invite feedback via a printed or online feedback form - Offer a prze draw for completed forms
  • Set aside some time to talk to audience members individually after talk
  • Provide contact details for audinece followup 
  • Use audience feedback to amend and polish your presentation 


Thomas MacEntee said...

I agree with each and every point - very well done! Isn't it funny that as genealogy speakers, when we attend sessions given by others, we are always keeping a keen eye on their performance.

Carole Riley said...

Excellent list Jill. I tried to measure myself against these points as I read them, and I think I usually manage most of them. Some of them are impossible given the time constraints. For example, if I am giving an overview of an internet-based topic, as I often am, it is impossible to break out of powerpoint and go to a live demonstration for every site, so I select a few and try to do those, usually at the end. That way if there is a problem, and there are many possible problems, at least they've seen something of the site, and they have the address to try it out for themselves at home.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jill. Great points. I actaully did a presentation today and the PPT version I had saved did not work on the provided laptop. Luckliy we were able to download a viewer and were only a few minutes late in starting - in which time I spruiked coming library events and speakers of interest to my family history researching audience off the cuff - - knowing your stuff helps and having a passion feeds into the audience I think too.

GeniAus said...

Thanks for the comments.

The intention was to provide a checklist for presenters not a collection of items that must be incorporated into all presentations. As Carole says some would be impossible to do in some situations.

I see a few uses for this list (that is not exhaustive)
1. As a tool for personal evaluation
2. As a pretalk aide-memoire
3. As the basis of an audience feedback form.

Judy Webster said...

Thanks for your very helpful comments. Would you be able to elaborate, please, on your suggestion 'Get prior information on your audience'?

GeniAus said...

Thanks, Judy
I will try to write a short blog post on 'Get prior information on your audience' tomorrow.

GeniAus said...

Judy, I have penned a few words at

Judy Webster said...

Thanks. I see what you mean now.

Judy Webster said...

I liked your advice so much that your blog is my selection for Follow Friday this week.


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