It is well known that only 35% of what is presented will be absorbed by the average audience who are paying attention to presentation. Does that mean that the other 65% of what is said is wasted?That depends on what you are looking for a presentation, seminar, lecture or discussion to achieve. If you set a goal of ensuring that the audience is as well versed in the subject as the lecturer by the end of it you will normally be sadly disappointed. However most organisers and commissioners of conferences are not that ambitious in their aims. A more realistic objective is to ensure that the audience have assimilated the salient points of any presentation and that they have embarked on the journey to getting the relevant knowledge.
Presentations on professional subjects should start with the objective of ensuring that:
- the audiences are aware when there is a problem
- understand the salient points that you are trying to get across
- they have some idea of where to look when considering a particular problem
Any more than this is frankly unrealistic. But there are ways of ensuring that you get your money’s worth with a presentation. The greatest expert in the world on the subject will make remarkably little impression if they do not have good presentation skills. On the other hand a person with a working knowledge of the subject but with good presentational skills will achieve a far more effective learning experience for his audience.
An effective presentation needs to be signposted. The old principle of introducing what one is going to say; saying it; and then concluded by saying what one has said, works well because your presentation needs to ensure that the audience understand the message. The more technical it is, the more the signposting that is needed.It is also a fact of modern life that attention spans are generally shorter and the tolerance of long speeches which were, in the 19th and early part of the 20th century a common feature, have long disappeared. Anyone who plans to speak unbroken for more than 40 minutes can expect the audience’s attention to wander. Quite often in these cases the most eagerly awaited words in the speech or presentation are “and finally”. This is bad enough when the speech is being given for free but when you are paying good money, this becomes a disaster.
Having given presentations for over 20 years, I understand the importance of variety, interaction, brevity and cutting any seminar up into manageable chunks which are interspersed with audience participation.
My aim is not to make people experts in a subject in a day but to ensure that they have started the process of learning if they are beginners or journeyed further in that process if they are intermediate or advanced in that area. Quite often it is knowing where the problems are that is the most valuable element in a professional practice. Above all, a bit of fun, humour and a slightly left-field approach to potentially dry subjects such as tax, leaves the participants with a greater understanding of the subject because they remain engaged.