Presentations are an important and effective way at communicating lots of information to a large group of people in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, delivering a presentation is said to be one of the most commonly held fears in the world. To improve your presentation skills, you'll need to analyze and evaluate them thoughtfully.
Self-reflection is important in any evaluation, but it is particularly difficult for presentations. Often, presenters are too nervous to focus adequately on both the material that they are presenting and how good their presentation is, according to Garr Reynolds, author of “Presentation Zen.” For self-reflection to work well, presenters must record or videotape their presentation, and listen to or view the tape. Reynolds suggests making a checklist of four or five specific things you notice in your presentation that you can focus on in your next practice session. By limiting the number of “fixable” issues in a presentation, you can address all potential problems with your presentation style. For example, you might notice that you sway back and forth during some parts of your presentation.
As a buildup to audience evaluation, most public speaking experts recommend practicing your presentation multiple times. Michael, Suzanne and Randall Osborn, authors of “Public Speaking,” a comprehensive public speaking textbook, even suggest practicing a presentation in front of a mock audience, if possible. The goal for initial audience responses is simply to have audiences tell you what they noticed about your presentation. It is important to encourage audiences who are responding to a presentation to note both good and bad features of the presentation. For example, audiences might notice that you have a very clear speaking voice, but that sometimes you stutter over technical terms.
If possible, presenters should make a transition from noting several informal audience responses to a presentation, to making a much more formalized audience evaluation of the presentation. Unlike a response session, in which audience members are simply noting good and bad qualities of a presentation, the Osborns suggest that in an audience evaluation session, audience members should make proactive suggestions about improving the presentation. For example, upon noticing that you stutter over technical terms, an audience member might suggest writing each word out phonetically on a note card that you can refer to during your presentation.
The most formalized of the presentation evaluation tools is a rubric. Donald Thomas and Victor Blocher, authors of “Speak Out! A Manual for Public Speaking,” define a rubric as a grading scale with pre-determined categories on which you will either grade yourself or be graded by either your peers or an instructor. Rubrics can be used privately by the presenter herself. Or, they can be distributed to audiences for an audience evaluation session. Rubrics are a way to develop a quantitative measurement of a relatively qualitative process. For example, upon grading your own presentation using a rubric, you might determine that you scored 3 points out of a possible 5 points on clarity and enunciation.
- "Speak Out!: A Manual for Public Speaking With Attached Workbook Pages for Outlining and Evaluation"; Donald R. Thomas and Victor L. Bloche; 1993
- "Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery"; Garr Reynolds; 2008
- "Public Speaking (8th Edition)"; Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn and Randall Osborn; 2008
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