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Before you get started, ask yourself: “What are the three key points I want attendees to remember when they leave my presentation?”
If these aren’t clear to you, they won’t be clear to your audience. But if you give careful thought to this question early on, you’ll establish a great foundation for building your presentation. The answer to this question will shape the takeaways from your presentation.
Imagine your presentation is a road trip. What is the final destination? What practical, relevant solutions will you deliver to your attendees? These are the takeaways, and they’re what most learners use to decide whether they’ll attend a presentation. By choosing to attend your presentation, they are investing time and resources — and they expect a healthy return on that investment. The emphasis always should be on what the learner will do, not on what the presenter will do.
Takeaways help to:
- Guide the attendee in deciding which presentations will best meet his/her needs
- Focus on the specific tool, skill or behavior to be learned
- Convey to the attendee exactly what will be learned
- Ensure that the presenter and learner end up in the same place of instruction
- Serve as guidelines for content, instruction and evaluation
Characteristics of good takeaways:
- The specified action by the learners must be observable.
- The specified action by the learners must be measurable.
- The specified action must be performed by the learners.
The ultimate test when writing a takeaway is whether the action taken by the participants can be assessed immediately upon departure from the presentation. If not, the takeaway probably does not meet all three characteristics.
The list below contains actions verbs that are measurable and observable.
- Cite, Define, Describe, Identify, Indicate, Know, Label, List, Match, Memorize, Name, Outline, Recall, Recognize, Record, Relate, Repeat, Reproduce, Select, State, Underline
- Arrange, Classify, Convert, Describe, Defend, Diagram, Discuss, Distinguish, Estimate, Explain, Extend, Generalize, Give examples, Infer, Locate, Outline, Paraphrase, Predict, Report, Restate, Review, Suggest, Summarize, Translate
- Apply, Change, Compute, Construct, Demonstrate, Discover, Dramatize, Employ, Illustrate, Interpret, Investigate, Manipulate, Modify, Operate, Organize, Practice, Predict, Prepare, Produce, Schedule, Shop, Sketch, Solve, Translate, Use
- Analyze, Appraise, Break down, Calculate, Categorize, Compare, Contrast, Criticize, Debate, Determine, Diagram, Differentiate, Discriminate, Distinguish, Examine, Experiment, Identify, Illustrate, Infer, Inspect, Inventory, Outline, Questions, Relate, Select, Solve, Test
- Arrange, Assemble, Categorize, Collect, Combine, Compile, Compose, Construct, Create, Design, Devise, Explain, Formulate, Generate, Manage, Modify, Organize, Practice, Plan, Prepare, Produce, Propose, Rearrange, Reconstruct, Relate, Reorganize, Revise
- Appraise, Assess, Choose , Compare, Conclude, Contrast, Criticize, Decide, Discriminate, Estimate, Evaluate, Explain, Grade, Judge, Justify, Interpret, Measure, Rate, Relate, Revise, Score, Select, Summarize, Support, Value
Using the above guidance, determine the three primary takeaways of your presentation.
Who is your intended audience? Go back to your takeaways and think about who would benefit from them. Think about particular responsibilities and experiences they might have that would make your presentation relevant. What level of familiarity with the topic should they have?
The questions below should be used to decide how a presentation should be tailored and to help focus planning and instruction.
- Does the level of awareness of the potential attendees need to be raised?
- Do they need to better understand the context in which the problem/issue exists?
- Are there ineffective practices that need to be addressed?
- What are the most essential things they need to know or be able to do?
- Do they need a strong rationale to buy into the issue?
- What specific skills or strategies do they need?
- How important is their level of confidence with this new learning?
- What are the obstacles they face using this new learning?
- What are the most important things they need to be able to do when they finish?
Adult Learning Guidelines
Now you need to think about the best ways to deliver the ideas you’ve outlined, and that involves understanding how adults learn.
Andragogy as a study of adult learning originated in Europe in the 1950s. It was pioneered as a theory and model of adult learning from the 1970s by Malcolm Knowles, an American practitioner and theorist of adult education who defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn.” Aaron Wolowiec, a meetings and education strategist, presents the six principles of adult learning as identified by Knowles, grounding them within the context of association learning:
1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
Adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions (or when content leaders appear unprepared, inexperienced or inauthentic). To encourage more self-directed and intentional learning, as well as to foster the learner’s internal motivation to learn, content leaders should:
- Develop interactive learning exercises that are challenging, but not overwhelming.
- Show genuine interest in the thoughts, opinions and questions of their audience.
- Provide feedback to learners, as appropriate, that is both constructive and specific.
- Support the disparity in learning styles by employing a variety of learning methods.
2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
Adults like to be given the opportunity to use their existing foundation of knowledge and apply their various life experiences to their own professional development. Therefore, content leaders should:
- Welcome opportunities for learners to share their interests and experiences.
- Draw correlations between past experiences and current problem-solving challenges.
- Facilitate opportunities for reflective learning.
- Examine existing biases or habits that may influence future learning or skill development.
3. Adults are goal-oriented
Adult learners become ready to learn when they experience a need to learn in order to cope more satisfyingly with real-life tasks or problems. To facilitate a learner’s readiness for problem-based learning and increase his or her awareness of the need for the knowledge or skill presented, content leaders should:
- Provide meaningful learning experiences that are clearly linked to personal/professional goals.
- Share real-life case studies that connect the dots between theory and practice.
- Ask questions that motivate reflection, inquiry and further research.
4. Adults are relevancy oriented
Adult learners want to know the relevance of what they are learning to what they want to achieve. To support learners in their quest for seeking and identifying relevancy, content leaders should:
- Ask learners at the beginning of the learning experience what they expect to learn.
- Check for meaning, understanding and relevance (to the context of work) throughout the learning experience.
- Identify what skills, knowledge or expertise learners gained as a result of participating in the learning experience.
- Determine how learners might apply what they learned in the future (and in the context of their everyday lives).
5. Adults are practical
Through hands-on exercises and collaborative brainstorming, learners move from classroom and textbook mode to hands-on problem solving where they can recognize first-hand how what they are learning applies to life and the context of work. To support this transformation, content leaders should:
- Clearly explain their rationale when presenting new ideas or innovative solutions.
- Be explicit about how the content is useful and applicable to the learners’.
- Promote active participation by allowing learners to try new things, offer suggestions or share healthy skepticism rather than simply observe.
- Provide ample opportunities for repetition to promote skill development, confidence and competence.
6. Adult learners like to be respected
Content leaders can demonstrate respect by:
- Taking an active interest in the development of all learners.
- Acknowledging the wealth of experiences that the learners bring to their work.
- Regarding learners as colleagues with unique perspectives and valuable life experience.
- Encouraging the expression of new ideas, reasoning and feedback at every opportunity.
Presentation Formats for Maximizing Learning
Traditionally, when most people thinking of conference education they imagine a room full of silent, seated attendees with a presenter at a podium. But there are many more effective ways of delivering educational content.
They don’t have to be complicated or difficult — they just require some advance consideration and energy. Attendees spend long days going from program to program, meeting to meeting, so it’s very important that your presentation energize and engage them. Think about the following presentation options and identify some methods you could employ to get your audience involved in the learning experience.
One participant observes another and then provides immediate or delayed feedback on the other’s actions or style of communicating. This type of presentation could work well in front of a large audience with one or more individuals observing an actor and reacting to his or her actions.
Audience members are asked to stand and is taken through a series of questions where they “vote” by sitting or remaining standing. “If you’ve been an educator for more than five years, remain standing.” Then, “If you’ve been an educator for more than 10 years, remain standing.” And so on. This is an effective icebreaker at the beginning of a presentation, but it can be done at any time throughout a presentation to stimulate the audience.
A large group of participants is divided into small units, usually of no more than six participants, which meet simultaneously. The purpose of the group is to react to a topic or directive. Emphasis is on ideas, as time usually is limited to 10 minutes or fewer. There must be time for feedback.
An oral or written account of an event or situation (real or fictitious) is used to develop critical thinking skills and to discover new perceptions of concepts and issues. They are not intended to be prescriptive; rather, they should allow participants to arrive at their own conclusions.
A presentation, or part of a presentation, in which participants react to a common experience they have shared earlier, such as a reading or field trip, or to another unique experience of one or part of the group.
A modification of the panel that uses six to eight people — half representing the audience, half serving as resources or experts. They engage in discussion, usually under the guidance of a moderator.
Two individuals, or teams, take opposing sides of a clearly specified issue. Participants observe, unless other strategies are used for involvement. It requires a high level of oral ability, an ability to think quickly and stage presence.
A demonstration shows how to perform a task or procedure. It can be a live presentation or prepared media, such as a video, and it should be brief and allow for interaction with the participants.
A structured experience, usually using some form of instrumentation or guide sheet, may be used to introduce a new topic, for skill practice, for review or for evaluation. Exercises are most effective with small groups or when a large group can be broken conveniently into small groups.
This type of discussion group is divided into two segments — an inner circle that discusses an issue and an outer group that observes and shares its observations. Members of the outer group may “tap in” or exchange places with a member of the inner group.
A type of question and answer period can be used after a formal presentation, when all participants are encouraged to ask questions of the presenter(s). Interaction is between the participants and the presenter(s).
The presenter starts by making a statement. Attendees then stand along one wall, where one corner represents strong agreement and the opposite corner represents strong disagreement. The presenter can pose a variety of statements with different variables to see how the attendees’ attitudes and opinions change.
This is a simulated, reinforcing exercise in which the participant responds to a collection of memos, directives, and problems that force the participant to prioritize, make decisions, and handle the difficulties that might be faced in a real situation.
The presenter is asked questions by an interviewer while the participants listen. The questions may be spontaneous or prepared in advance. Likewise, the presenter may respond spontaneously or prepare answers to questions received in advance.
Jigsaw Grouping Brainstorming
Attendees are divided into separate groups with a pre-established topic, facilitator and flip chart. Notes are taken using the flip chart while the groups brainstorm their topics. At a prearranged time, the groups break apart and new groups are formed, with the facilitator at each table picking up the brainstorming where the previous group left off.
A speaker addresses the audience (participants), although it can be supplemented with other strategies. The lecture has been much maligned, as some lecturers do not know how to focus a strictly oral presentation so it is a stimulating experience. The lecture should be limited in time and in content.
Short, 10- to 15-minute lectures are presented or distributed in written form that frame a conversation, situation or theory. A good way to bookend an activity or segue between topics, lecturettes are intended to establish some common language between presenters and attendees.
A group of several people presents different aspects of an assigned topic in the presence of participants.
Peer-to-Peer Round Tables
Attendees sit down at tables with established topics and facilitators. The facilitators guide discussions at the tables following a predetermined set of instructions.
Role-play lets participants create manageable versions of situations in which they can practice new behaviors and try new ways to communicate, all in a safe environment that allows them to make and correct mistakes. Role-play requires a skilled person to successfully administer the presentation.
Each participant is expected to be at a required level and to participate actively. A resource person is utilized to facilitate interaction, but all the participants are responsible for interaction during the seminar.
Participants experience an actual situation without incurring the risks associated with the real-life situation.
A short, rehearsed, dramatic presentation, involving two or more people, usually acted from a prepared script. It dramatizes an incident that illustrates a problem or situation.
Rather than having the presenter simply provide important words or phrases in a handout, participants are involved in facilitated brainstorming to create some type of graphical representation that frames the topic (using flip charts).
Participants interact with the purpose of producing a product or solving problem. Each participant should be involved highly in the process.