What makes a good presentation?
CPD accreditation relates much more to the mechanics of a course than the intellectual content. The assessors will want to know that the speaker is right for the job, the course is written and laid out in a way that’s conducive to learning and that best efforts are made to ensure its currency, factual accuracy and relevance. These are the roles of the CPD assessor but, of course, there is a lot more to consider.
Whatever your reason for staging a presentation you should want it to be a good one. It goes without saying that, if you’re delivering a course within an organisation, you should want to do your best for your own standing and reputation in the organisation. If you’re selling courses you’ll want as many good reviews, referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations as you can get.
People don’t just want to be informed, they want to be taught and they want to enjoy the experience. If they enjoy the course they’re much more likely to learn and perform well and they’re much more likely to speak well of you and the course afterwards.
The trainer should have a teaching qualification. This doesn’t have to be specific to the subject of the course. It’s sufficient that the trainer knows the accepted processes of teaching.
It’s also important to point out that a “teaching qualification” can be the type that is recognised only within a certain sector, for instance D32/33 within the medical professions.
The trainer will, of course, need the necessary experience to speak with authority on the subject. They will need to be able to answer questions and add information from their own experiences to the delivery of the course.
Know the course
Besides being experienced and knowledgeable in the general field the course deals with the trainer should pay particular attention to each aspect within the course itself. Know each frame inside-out, anticipate questions and have the answers ready.
It’s inevitable that questions will be asked that the trainer doesn’t know the answer to. When this happens make a note to read up on the answers so you don’t get caught out again.
There are three main reasons why opening with introductions is a good idea:
Firstly it’s important for the students to know who’s teaching them. This is an opportunity for the trainer to establish their credentials. It’s also a good time to add something more personal so that the students can connect emotionally with their tutor. This helps to open the students minds to receiving and retaining information.
Secondly, introductions give the trainer a bit of insight into each student’s circumstances. This enables the trainer to make relevant references during the course thus engaging the students on an individual level.
Thirdly this breaks the ice and prompts the students to speak to the group for the first time. Having done this they’re more likely to relax and engage in two-way conversation with the tutor and each other during the course.
Don’t pad it out
It might sometimes seem appropriate to pad a screen presentation out a little. Maybe it seems a little short because there just isn’t that much information to deliver but padding is rarely a good idea. It can bore the student and tax their learning capacity unnecessarily.
The actual number of frames in a presentation doesn’t matter that much. In fact fewer is sometimes better as long as all the information is delivered. If you feel the need to deliver more value then add to the vocal delivery. Illustrative anecdotes bring great value to the learning experience.
This kind of involvement of the skill and experience of the speaker has an added bonus. Student interaction can make finishing times quite unpredictable and this is of particular concern where there is a practical element to the course that is due to start at a certain time. In this case the speaker can tailor the amount of their anecdotal input and steer the presentation to end at the right time.
It is, of course, of the utmost importance that your presentation is factually correct. But what is true at the time of writing may not remain so going forward so set a schedule for regular fact-checking and adjust where necessary.
Graphics and illustrations
Visual aids are a great help in the delivery and absorption of information and your CPD assessor will be looking for them. Whereas text on the screen can clash with your verbal delivery the student can absorb a graphic and your spoken words at the same time.
As the saying goes, “A picture paints a thousand words”. Use graphics and images to replace text where it’s possible without losing information.
Where you wish to group a set of items or ideas use bullet points to separate your list from the rest of the text. This kind of compartmentalising is a great aid to learning.
It sometimes helps to put a box around text that is of special importance or in some way separate from the text surrounding it. The student can easily spot these when revising course material.
It can be helpful to recap regularly at appropriate points throughout a presentation.
Check the pacing of the presentation to be sure that it doesn’t linger too long on very easy sections but long enough on more complicated ones.
Be aware that, while the speaker is interested and engaged, the student is likely to start losing concentration without regular breaks. It’s a good idea to time the presentation during a practice run and schedule in some kind of break every 20 minutes or so. These can be toilet breaks or refreshments but can also be just a two minute pause to allow the students to talk to each other, liven up and snap back to attention. These breaks can be signalled to the trainer using, for instance, a symbol or a coloured line on the presentation.
Questions and discussion
In almost every case a course should end with questions and discussion. This allows students to not only have their own questions answered but also to benefit from hearing the answers to those of their fellow delegates.
Where the content of the course is not purely informational but also contains emotional elements it might be worth considering opening and closing each section with a positive message.
Be passionate and expressive
Simply reading words from a screen or a board is a sure-fire way to put your students to sleep. If the speaker isn’t fully-interested their audience certainly won’t be.
The speaker drives the level of engagement and, for this reason, the speaker should be lively, engaged and expressive.
The students should be made to understand that in-course questions are encouraged.
It goes without saying that questions are necessary for the student’s full understanding but they also serve a less obvious purpose. Simply being spoken to for anything longer than a few minutes can have a seriously detrimental effect on attention levels. When a student asks a question it helps to re-engage the whole group.
Never blah blah blah
In the same way that the course material can be unnecessarily padded out so can the delivery. While a conversational demeanour is good, and while the occasional non-related digression can be engaging, it’s important to keep the general quality of the delivery high. Don’t go off-topic for too long and don’t linger too long on details that will have no valuable effect.
Sometimes, during a course, there may be a frame or a section that the speaker believes is of little importance. It’s important that the speaker does not skim or wave-away these parts. Not only is it possible that they may be more important than the speaker thinks they are but it also delivers the wrong message to the student. If the student thinks there are irrelevant sections within the course their confidence in the rest of the material may be affected.
Information about students’ individual circumstances gained during introductions can be used to personalise the delivery and increase engagement. At appropriate points during the delivery the speaker can refer to ways that the subject being discussed relates to a student’s particular circumstances.
Add illustrative anecdotes
This seems to counter the point above regarding not padding but, while it would not be appropriate to include them in the written presentation, rehearsed and on-topic anecdotes can be a valuable part of the delivery.
Anecdotes are best when drawn from the speaker’s own experiences.
Students feel more connected to a trainer who occasionally makes them laugh. Laughter relaxes and engages the listener and can also serve as a memory-trigger.