Conference season! You find yourself mid-session on a topic you really want to hear about but you’re struggling to focus; you’re out of routine, the coffee isn’t strong enough, and that presenter is seriously going to talk AT you for 45 minutes?! Don’t be that presenter.
In my experience, I’ve taught first semester community college students, student-athletes, and graduate students in courses held past my bedtime; trust me when I say ‘active-learning strategies’ are not just buzz words – they’re a useful approach to ensure that you needn’t question if your audience still has a pulse. Learning is more likely to be fun if you are connecting.
Whatever your topic, you need to engage and involve your audience. Here’s how: It starts with your style. Ease your nerves and set the tone for the presentation by ‘working the room’ for the early arrivals; introduce yourself and learn about your audience – this will allow you to make connections later in your presentation.
Next, work active-learning strategies into your content delivery. Some of my favorites:
1. Focused Listing: A brainstorming minute allows participants to list as much as they know about your topic and briefly share these. This will help you gauge audience knowledge.
2. Two Column Activity: Have audience members add information to one of two dichotomous columns; can be positive & negative sides of your topic.
3. Think/pair/share: A simple classic that allows the introverts in your audience time to think and engage in a nonthreatening way. Also helps to minimize those overly enthusiastic sharers…
4. Four corners: Great for controversial topics or anything without a clear answer. Designate each wall of the room as an option (such as strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree; don’t allow people to hang out in the middle!) and ask questions related to your topic.
5. Ask questions of your audience: Ok, nothing new here, but the key is to give them time to respond. We often rush and what seems like an eternity passes and no one is answering?! But people sometimes need up to 10 seconds to think of an answer and decide to share so practice counting in your head before providing the question in another way.
6. Fill-in-the-blank: If you’re really strapped for time and your topic is more of a research-based report, try making an interactive worksheet for participants (think mad libs, but not quite as fun). Just being tasked with filling in information can give audience members more focus and purpose.
7. Create a quiz: Again, this works well when your topic and time are limited. A quick pre/post-test or stick with an initial quiz which will set the stage for the information the audience can count on receiving. People enjoy taking quizzes when it isn’t for a grade.
These require more work on your part as the presenter but they will pay off. Final tip: practice so much that you feel comfortable and your personality shines through your delivery and you have FUN.
It’s convention season! Reflections from conventions, presentation tips and strategies, and convention session highlights are all March topics.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.