Have you got to lead some training?
I won’t forget the first external CPD I gave. I was rubbish, not quite an epic fail but on a scale of 1-10 where 1 = ‘arms folded and what time is lunch?’ to 10 = ‘out of this world and participants want selfies’, I was around a 3.
I made a few presentational clangers and made some schoolboy errors but fortunately, my audience was on my side and could feel my pain. The feedback forms were forgiving and it actually went better than I thought.
Delivering training to colleagues is a daunting experience but nowhere as near daunting as doing a day’s supply or teaching Year 2 on a wet-play day.
I think I started to feel more like a 5 after 100 presentations and probably edged up a couple of notches by 200. What I realised though was that no matter how many times I ‘did a session’, I learnt probably more than those in front of me.
Although every audience is different, I do have a few tips that are worth thinking about if ever you have to deliver a presentation, some training or lead a seminar of some sort.
14 Top Tips
1. Think positive
Remember that no one wants you to fail and audience members aren’t there to trip you up. If you have planned your session well then there is every reason it will go well.
2. Make an instant impact
If you can get off to a great start then you are flying. If you look petrified and nervous whilst people are taking their seats then this will be noticed. Project yourself as being warm, confident and friendly. Chat with people as they come in, make people feel at ease (they might be nervous too!) and take a few deep breaths. Plan the first few lines of your presentation and know them well and the rest will follow.
3. Make it brief
Include a ‘bio’ if you want but if you do make it brief. Most presenters have a bio on the course literature and this is normally enough. If you spend 10 minutes talking about your background and experience of teaching in some tough inner-city schools, leading initiatives, being a policy advisor and writing 75 books, then ego can take over. It’s far better to offer everyone a warm welcome, offer a quick overview of the session and get down to business.
It’s amazing how often we can say certain words. Be mindful of idiosyncratic things you say and particular words that might slip in to fill gaps because of nerves. “Urrm”, “basically”, “right then” or certain buzzwords like “resilience” will have your audience listening out for them and playing conference bingo.
If you are a ‘pacer’ bouncing from one side of the stage to another then you are playing tennis. Being rooted to the spot can make you look rigid and like a statue. You’ve got to move but without causing a distraction. Think where to stand and sweep the audience when speaking ensuring you make eye contact with the whole room rather than a few groups or tables.
6. Slow down
When you first start to do CPD, the temptation is to talk too fast or forget what we’ve planned to say and then start to waffle and get in a flap. Slow the pace down, take your time and refer to your notes.
7. Project yourself
Effectively projecting your voice is key so people can hear you. Depending on the size of the room and the number of people you are addressing, you may need to speak with a lapel microphone.
8. Vary intonation
Monotone sends people to sleep. It’s no different from any other teaching – your voice has to be audible but also interesting to listen to so modulate your voice, be lively, energetic, passionate and change the pace and you will avoid people nodding off.
9. Ask lots of questions and make the session interactive
Too many sessions are death by Powerpoint and the speaker doing all the speaking. Invite participation with plenty of audience involvement. Make it memorable by using a throwable microphone like Catchbox so that comments can be heard and shared easily around the room.
10. Hold the audience’s interest
It helps to open up and relate a few (not too many) stories that draw on your real experiences – people see that you’re human! Don’t just focus on the brilliant and outstanding things you have done, focus on what hasn’t gone right but what you have learnt about in the process. People can relate to vulnerability far more than perfection.
10. Don’t try too hard
If you try too hard then you can come unstuck. Go easy on yourself and don’t expect everything to be 100%. Any session or lesson is going to be unpredictable and perhaps one or two unexpected things might happen. It is possible to over-prepare and feel disappointed at the end.
12. Make people think
People have come to see you so make it memorable and give everyone plenty to think about. Do something different, create a wow moment, throw a spanner in the works, challenge, disrupt, up-end. Focus on the content, not you.
This is a ‘biggy’. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the event and forget to smile. If you look serious and sound serious then that’s serious. It’s incredibly important to smile – you normally get quite a few back and it will make you and everyone relax.
14. Don’t disappear
When your session has ended you might want to breathe a sigh of relief and run off stage. Not yet – rather than disappearing, stick around, chat and use the opportunity to network with the people who have taken the time to listen to you. Answer any questions people didn’t get a chance to ask and listen to feedback.
Whether you are an experienced presenter or first-timer, CPD is a massively rewarding experience that might appear prickly on the outside but it’s never as bad as you think it is and it’s nothing like Dragon’s Den!
There are more tips to share – perhaps you have some of your own. Let us know!