Presenting vs. Facilitating

When I was a full-time classroom teacher, I had several opportunities to present at various local conferences. As I’ve expanded my horizons in the education world, so have they expanded in the presentation world. I present for my work at Southern Methodist University and in my capacity as a Discovery Educator Network STAR, at various regional and national conferences.

I have a presentation coming up in South Padre, Texas (TSTEM Best Practices Conference) this month for work, and one in Austin, Texas (TCEA) in February for the DEN. My initial thought was that none of this was anything new and I wouldn’t really need to do all that much prep work for these presentations.

The reason I write this post is that the more I thought that way, the more I wondered why I really thought I could get away with doing the same old same old.

So I’m asking you to answer some questions from the perspective of an audience member, NOT as a presenter (as I’m sure many of you are):

1. What types of things make you want to stand up and walk out of a presentation?

For me, the dreaded “death by PowerPoint” is first on my list. Next is when someone is presenting a topic that was part of teacher training 101.

2. What opening activities or experiences excite you about the rest of the workshop?

As in my classes, I try to start workshops with some kind of a hook – sometimes it is a story that explains the reason we are all there, but more often, it is some kind of an activity or thought exercise.

3. Would you prefer to be presented to or to have a speaker facilitate discussion?

Personally, I prefer to have my audiences be a very active part of my session. I also prefer to be in sessions where I am allowed to share. We can all learn something from each other. Unfortunately, it seems that many audiences don’t really want to do that. What are your thoughts?

I appreciate your time in answering these questions, as I have decided to completely redo my presentations to try to encourage more audience participation so the sessions don’t turn into a 45 minute nap for everyone!


8 responses to “Presenting vs. Facilitating

  1. Ian Jukes can be thought provoking, but prior to starting, he has funny/weird photos in a slide show that just loop. It gets people loosened up before he even begins.

    I saw Dina Zikes do make-n-take with an auditorium full. People stayed because they knew they were leaving with something they would use.

    I like putting my preso on a wiki so you don’t have to take notes. But as a particip, if I have the website addy up front, I may leave early and check it out later so I can hit another preso.

  2. I too have done a number of presentations and often wonder about these very things. When I go to a conference and am attending a presentation, I know that there is a limited amount of time and I need to choose wisely. I look for sessions that are of interest to me but so many times I find the descriptions to be misleading (purposely or not). If I find that I’m not learning from that session, I get up and go, it usually has nothing to do with whether or not the content is being facilitated or presented if I’m getting new info and the presenter is good, I’m in.

  3. I always like to chat with my audience, one on one, before the actual presentation. I call it “meet and greet,” where I get an understanding as to why they are there. What do they want to hear? Then I usually put some of their comments into my opening remarks and go from there. But, it’s been a few years since I have presented to a group of educators.

  4. I have given a lot of thought to presenting lately. I have presented a lot at the state conference and have attended many keynote presentations…I have been wondering what makes people climb to the top of that presentation list.

    First, for me, I want to be inspired into change. Stories are great, but if there isn’t something that makes me want to change something, they are just fluff. Sometimes, to me, it feels that the person might have in their notes, “Now is the time when I tell the ____ story.” Not that it has anything to do with what you are there for…just a way to try to connect with the audience.

    Second, I want something I can use the next day in my class….at least one thing. I always try to present something that can be adapted and used by anyone in the room. It makes you feel like the person has something to say that is important…something that is tried and true.

    Third, I like it when the person is real. I always say that teachers are the best at spotting a phony….The slick openings and the PowerPoint that you can tell have been almost worn out, are a turn off. Speaking from the heart wins me over every time.

    Finally, I think it is easy to tell the people who are TRUE educators. Even if they haven’t been in my shoes, they respect what I do every day and they don’t feel the need to talk down to me. You have to love a person who can really communicate with a crowd and not just lecture.

  5. Howard, I like the idea of having funny stuff looping and I also am like you – if someone has a wiki, I might write the address down and go see something else if it’s been a tough decision.

    Bill, you make a good point about it mostly being about what we are getting out of a session. I need to learn something new – when I sit through a session and realize I know more about that topic than the presenter, I’m disappointed, especially if they haven’t given the audience an opportunity to supplement.

    DK, I’m not very good at the meet and greet – I need to work on that.

    TJ, you always have very thought-provoking comments. I, too, dislike a phony or someone who is clearly only doing a presentation for a job (sadly, I sometimes feel that way about my work presentations). I especially like your comment “you have to love a person who can really communicate with a crowd and not just lecture” – I think that communication is a two-way street.

  6. #1 — Powerpoint doesn’t bother me as long as they don’t read directly from it. If it is there for me to take notes from, creative images, etc…..I don’t mind the bullets and occasional “zing”. I cringe at the powerpoints I have made in the past and realize the presenter might be learning too.

    #2 — Try to have doorprizes. Even simple things. The people just gave up an hour (or more) to come hear you. Having the chance of taking something home really is a perk. I usually use an online tool like number generator or roll the dice to showcase something they could use in the classroom to pick winner.

    #3 — What bothers me most is when what is advertised is NOT what is provided. If it is a beginner class…announce that at the beginning so if people are familiar, they can choose to discreetly leave right then. As well as for higher level.

    #4 — I introduce myself. Comfy with that.

    #5 — I will (and I have) walked out if the presenter is NOT prepared. There is a difference with getting over nerves and just NOT knowing information.

    #6 — One hint. Don’t name drop. And if you do, don’t assume that people know who you are talking with. If you mention, “Oh, Jen Wagner did an online project” — (shameless plug I know) — half the people will have no clue, and linking to the site or a bit more information is helpful.

    I wish you the best.
    and if you ustream — remember that the people who are in the room are MUCH more important than the people who just computered in. The people in the room have paid to be there. They deserve your attention first and foremost (well, in my opinion they do!)


  7. Jen, I really appreciate your comments.

    I, too, use powerpoints but hopefully my audience only sees me glancing at them to be sure I’m not forgetting a point I wanted to make. Copies of my powerpoints are useless, unless the audience is making notes on them, because they are limited in words (unless they are designed to be “watched” without me, such as in an archived online presentation).

    I really like your idea of using a tool they can use in their classroom to determine the winner of the door prize!

    I especially agree with you about the name-dropping. Sadly, I’ve been on presentation panels where name-dropping occurred and I just cringed to be associated with that kind of activity.

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