This year its organisers wanted to pay particular attention to the place of Technologies in mental health, and so I was tapped to offer a series of talks as well as presentation skills workshops.
The talks were part of a seminar featuring how to best understand how current and imminent technologies have a role to play in mental health in schools. The presentation skills effort was a one hour talk, showcasing the highlights of my half day and longer workshops.
All in all, there were about a dozen speakers, comprised of authors, psychologists, researchers and technologists including those from the Australian arms of Microsoft and Google, who visited the cities of Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
The arrangement, as told to me by the organisers, was that each city would receive the same presentations. On the surface, that sounds ideal and easy: the same talk four times. But as it turns out for a few of the presenters, including myself, this wasn’t ideal and in fact we gave variations for all of our presentations. It was an iterative process, learning from each presentation what worked best and which slides and ideas appealed to the audience.
By the fourth conference I felt I had “honed” my presentations and delivered the “biggest bang for the buck”; that is, in the time I had these were my most impactful presentations.
During each of the conferences, conducted over two days including large auditoriums and break out rooms for smaller concurrent workshops, I was able to attend as an audience member and watch others in action.
For each conference, there were times when all the attendees (400+) would gather in one large auditorium to hear the speakers, including me on technologies.
What I, and the organisers, found interesting were those highly paid professional speakers who gave the same presentation each time. I was perhaps the least known to the audience of all the presenters and likely the least financially compensated, so I had to prove myself and win over the audiences with my content and presentation style. Which is why I welcomed the opportunity to present and improve each time.
Too many people, either due to fear or inexperience, forget that it is the personal interaction – you are THERE – that explains the audience’s presence. Otherwise they could just watch the video online.
Anything on the screen has to enhance your presence. not detract from it. That is what Powerpoint bullet lists are deadly. Focus moves away from the speaker to a static list, often simply reread out loud by the speaker.
Why even have them there?
If the speaker cannot provide a reason why their personal presence is important, why should the audience?
Videos need to be short and provide an easy to understand visual to support the speaker. Why show someone else speaking? That generally implies laziness, not exactly what an audience wants to see.
Even in scientific presentations, the speaker is there to provide context, not to read data out loud. To be personal.