Presentation Skills

Last week I delivered the second of the revised presentation skills workshops we are running this term. While the previous version of the workshop generally got good feedback and was well-attended, there were frequent requests for a workshop where people could practice presentations. As this is a key skill for all postgraduate researchers I decided to redesign the workshop to include short presentations from each attendee.

The key factor in redesigning the workshop was time – the workshop lasts two hours and I didn’t want to increase it to a whole day as this would make it more difficult for people to attend.  In order to keep the workshop short moved some of the content on planning and structuring a presentation online as pre-course reading (this is an example of asynchronous delivery if we’re being formal) and included a pre course task – the creation of a three-minute presentation. Completion of the reading and the task are mandatory – participants have to do both before they attend the workshop.  I chose to use Prezi to deliver the pre course reading so that postgraduate researchers could experience a different method of giving presentations, as the main body of the workshop is delivered in PowerPoint.

I also decided to recruit a pool of PG training assistants to help deliver the workshop. This has already proved to be really beneficial, giving participants a range of experiences to learn from and discuss and enabling everyone to get feedback on their practice presentations. Participants split into small groups and get peer feedback on presentations, while the assistant (last week it was Pamela, a postgraduate researchers from the College of Social Sciences) and I circulate and give our feedback as well. As current workshops have had fairly low attendance this meant in practice that everyone got both peer and facilitator feedback. If numbers increase this may not be the case and I will have to decide how I want to approach this.

On the whole I felt the workshop went well. I really enjoyed having Pamela to work with as I felt the different experiences and approaches we bought to the workshop were useful for a mixed group. We spent longer on body language than I had anticipated thanks to the input of one of the participants, and I will make a note to include more on this in future workshops and possibly reduce the amount of time spent talking about PowerPoint, as there is already a stand alone workshop on presenting using PowerPoint that postgraduate researchers can attend.

I also need to take another look at how the pre-course task is stated. Participants must have a presentation to deliver at the workshop and both the pre-course reading and the confirmation email state that if they do not they will not be able to attend the workshop. Despite this several people had not prepared a presentation and I had to ask them to book on a different workshop. I feel that it is important that everyone give a presentation in order to get the most out of the workshop. Having everyone give a presentation also helps to create the feeling of a safe space to give and receive criticism; I don’t feel it is fair to the rest of the group if there are people who don’t take part in giving presentations. I have asked colleagues to look over the sections relating to the task and make sure that it is clear, as several people I had to turn away stated they didn’t realise it was mandatory.

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