"E" is for Engaging

"E" is for Engaging

When delivering a presentation regardless of it's purpose - it is essential that the presentation is engaging not just in content but in delivery. Effective knowledge translation isn't as straightforward as 'word dumping' all the facts you'd like your audience to know off by heart. In order to help learners reach desired learning objectives, we need to be able to get their attention, retain it, and actively engage thinking.

This post is about 3 practical strategies you can use to better engage your audiences in your next presentation.

1. Break down information


Trade busy slides for simpler, clearer slides.

Splitting slides is a very useful tool to help make information easier to digested. Many times information on slides can be communicated verbally instead. In the past I have heard the advice 'slides should have no more than 6 lines with 6 words on each line' - but I think this rule is too simplistic and also leaves word filled slides. A better guide would be 'one idea per slide' and to focus on the best possible way to convey that one idea.

Here is an example I've made below. The first slide on the left is a typical word dense informative slide about history taking for febrile convulsion which most speakers would read aloud. Compare this with the slide on the right which removes text and hones in on the key ideas. It also drops the specific questions from the slide - but these questions/additional information may be presented by the speaker. The use of the picture of the alarm clock helps to remind the audience that time is a unifying factor (what happened before, during and after the seizure).

One style of presentation shaking things up is the Pechakucha - where talks are delivered with a  punchy 20 seconds x 20 slides. For a great example of a great medical pechakucha (PK) check out Oli Flower's Pechakucha series on Subarachnoid Haemorrhage.

Another tool you can try to reduce the 'wordiness' of your slides include blacking out/greying out lines so that information is given in real time and helps to prevent the audience from automatically reading your slides.

This way of creating slides enforces the slide as a visual aid rather than as your cue card. Practically, students may find this new style of slide difficult to study from alone. If the presentation you are giving is educational and contains dense information, I would recommend using your notes to create a handout for your audience which could be delivered electronically or in paper form either immediately before, during or after your talk as a word document, blog post or email.

2. Use case examples and analogies to illustrate ideas


Case studies are often used to illustrate examples of medical conditions, practical problem solving or healthcare dilemmas. They also highlight application of knowledge. You can structure your case example at the beginning of your talk, interspersed with background information and close with the conclusion of the case. Or you can use it in a multiple-case format where similar to illustrating mathematical principles - you might explain the general idea and how to solve it and then apply it to a variety of cases. Often comparing and contrasting differences  between cases is more useful to audiences than just reiterating similar cases.

Following the old analogy of knowledge being like a tree; when learning, it is easier to build existing knowledge if you have underlying branches, trunk and foundational knowledge. Analogies may make new information more concrete and easier for your audience to conceptualise. 

Reinforce these key ideas, analogies and case examples with engaging images.

Using engaging images can help  build an emotional connection with the audience to have them invested in the outcome of the diagnosis/journal that the case takes them on. You can also crop and zoom in your pictures (provided it doesn't damage your image quality) to focus on the important or engaging part of the image. 

Here is an example below. In the slide on the left, I introduce a case using key feature words highlighting not just the age of the patient but also their role in society which is coupled with an emotive image - the direct gaze and close up of the face helps connect with the audience. The slide on the right reveals the next part of the story - his key symptoms.

3.  Create space for interaction


Get closer to your audience and leave the lectern aside

If you are presenting on stage, try leaving the lectern to one side. If required for volume/recording, you could use a handheld or headset mic. Lecterns often block most of your body and so your audience can't see your hand gestures and body language as clearly. Your body itself can be used as a tool to help highlight key points. For example, you might position to the left when debating one view point, then position to the right when rebutting it. By stepping away from the lectern, you are also able to get closer to your audience. This helps to break down the barriers when you ask questions and have discussions with your audience. Sometimes I will also physically move my audience closer if it's a big room and not many people in it. 

Get your audience involved in your talk!

Engaging your audience through questioning and discussion can be a very effective. You could ask direct questions verbally or as a show of hands. You could also  ask them to talk to their neighbour about what they think or what they might do.  When delivering a presentation, you can use the black out function (press B or use the clicker) to give the audience's visual attention a break and to create an opportunity to ask your questions. You can also purposely insert a black slide or prompter slide to create a space and time for them to think back or reflect on their own experiences in the mind.

Another tool that can be really useful is immediate polling through apps/websites like poll everywhere. In the age of smart phones - you can use interactive real time polling which can be utilised within your slide as well. It does require that there is either good wifi or internet connection where you are delivering your presentation but it definitely gives a great instant feedback effect and also helps you to gauge where your audience's thinking is at. Polling can not only be helpful for you as a speaker, but can also be very interesting for the audience to see the perspectives and differences within their group.

So why not consider using one or all of these 3 techniques to engage your audience in your next talk? Let me know what you like to do and how you went! 

This post is written as part of the series on Alphabetical Adventures in slide design! Stay tuned for the next part - "F" is for Focus!

"F" is for Focus

"F" is for Focus

"D" is for Detail [Great Pictures]

"D" is for Detail [Great Pictures]