Enterprise Software

Office poll: Have you had any training to improve your presentation skills?

We seem to spend a lot of time designing presentations, but ignore our skills as presenters. Have you received specialized training that improved your presentation skills? Share your experiences in our latest Office poll.

Our recent Powerpoint challenge, How Would You Improve This Slide was great. Many of you offered suggestions for improving the example slide, including dumping it and starting over! During the discussion, most of you agreed that the best presentation is of no use if the presenter has no skills. I'm wondering how many of you have specialized training for improving presentation skills? If none of the answers below quite describe your situation, please pick the one that most closely matches your experiences. Or, start a thread and give us more information. Yo.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

33 comments
randy
randy

Although I work in IT in the civilian world, my training in creating and presenting presentations came through the Military. Even though our situation is different than most civilian presentations, many of the basics remain, We, the Battle Staff, made informative presentations to the Commander on a cyclic basis (daily, every 48 hours and weekly), we also gave presentations on short notice in response to external events. The presentations were made with PowerPoint. Each slide was formatted to the standard for the unit as well as to the standard for the specific slide. For example every slide had the Unit, date-time group, and the subject of the slide in defined locations. The Targeting slides had targeting information in a standard format in defined locations. For someone from outside the unit, the slides might have bee overwhelming with the acronyms, color-coding, jargon, and symbols, but for the Commander could quickly grasp the pertinent information. Each Staff Officer had an ordered place in the presentations. When his or her turn came, the Officer gave precise (Or as precise as was possible) information. If things were routine, each presenter could be done in 60 seconds or less. However, if the Commander or other staff members had questions, the Staff Officer was expected to have those answers two or three questions deep. The basics that made presenters successful are: Practice. The experience of doing this once or more a day will overcome stage fright quickly. Preparation. Knowing the material in more depth than is in the presentation will provide answers for the inevitable questions.Know the audience.Tailor the presentation to fit. Give the information that your audience wants or needs. And finally, consider how the information will be used. A colorful Targeting slide might look great up on the screen, but indistinguishable shades of grey are useless on a B&W printout that you give to a Squad Leader who has to go out in the field and put it to use.

scott.newman
scott.newman

If you haven't heard of them, Google Toastmasters. They are an organization dedicated to making you the best presenter you can be.

esalkin
esalkin

Can I put in a plug for Toastmasters? You can spend thousands on "professinal training" or join Toastmasters and learn the ways the pros did for almost nothing.

exvallarta
exvallarta

For a number of years I conducted siminars for my compnay 'SALES SUCCESS SEMINARS'. MY last nine working years I was the seminar speaker at 3-4 presentations a day at the most sucessful time share program in Mexico. When I talked to groups we averaged more than 32% sales with a minumum sale of $4700 dollars. Myles Spatny exvallarta@cox.net

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've had lots of professional training in many areas; Project Management, Financial Management, Managing Unionized employees, Troubleshooting/Decision Making, etc. But I've never had a presntation course, or even any course on MS Office. I used to teach computer courses. I've never been trained in that either. Yet I somehow manage to make presentations that successfully launch big projects. I learn by watching others, experimenting and doing. I do get feedback from supervisors, and sometimes we will even do a dry run before a presentation.

coderancher
coderancher

I was on the speech and debate team when I was in high school. One of the events I competed in was Expository, which was a 10 minute informative speech on any topic with visual aids (illustrations on posterboard). I have been judging speech tournaments for the past decade, so I am still learning by observation what works and what burns my eyes/ears.

PatriciaT
PatriciaT

I completed a week-long training and a one-year practicum to be certified as an Instructor-of-Trainers. It included training and LOTS of practice honing my presentation and training skills.

bus66vw
bus66vw

I knew coworkers who refused to attend presentation skill seminars and during the next layoff they were gone.

svaughan
svaughan

I utilize the Toastmasters International organization to learn, practice and improve my presentation skills. It has helped significantly

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

in Speech class. Real eye-opener.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Yes I've sat through a lot of poor ones, and learnt what not to do. Keep it simple, don't try and get too much across, think about your audience and leave time for questions / discussion. Doesn't matter how snazzy the tools you use are they are not the content.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

My work IS permanent training. Constantly learning and improving my skillset. I always evaluate why I didn't succeed or what I could do better, I socialize with people who are better and take any opportunity I can get to better my skillset, wether formal training or just lessons learned.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Those questions were for the passive, receivers of action. Where are the ones for active, originators of action?

andrew
andrew

The only training I had was in the 70s to make colour thermal OHT slides. I guess I'm lucky and have design skills that naturally seem to make text and images work well. I teach this and these are the first 10 points that spring to mind. 1. Learn how to speak well 2. Use the .pps not the .ppt 3. Clean up your desktop and embarrassingly named files if you're likely to forget 2. 4. Have a convincing reason for anything other than black text on white 5. Never, ever, get an image out of proportion. If it doesn't fit, edit it. 6. If a big image is important, show it full screen without the white space 7. Grab attention at slide 1 and give them something impressive or vital to remember on the last slide they see. (If you haven't got anything impressive or vital, why bother?) 8. Stick to 'standard layouts' unless you're really good. 9. Duplicate the last slide so you don't accidentally go to the black screen 10. Learn how to use web pages instead. My experience over 13 yrs of PowerPoint is that senior staff presentations are by far the worst, presumably because no-one has the nerve to criticise.

PatriciaT
PatriciaT

However, it obviously did NOTHING for my writing skills! :)

CoachRick
CoachRick

Toastmasters is a great place to learn and improve one's presentation skills. Not only is the program effective, it is internationally recognized and respected for its quality; and it is not expensive. The regular meetings (most clubs meet weekly) help to reinforce the skills you learn and develop thru participation in the roles of each meeting, participating in contests as well as working on your communication and leadership skills through the workbooks included with your membership. (Did I mention that you also get the opportunity to build/develop leadership skills?)

PatriciaT
PatriciaT

I was filmed and learned about some annoying little things I do unconsciously that make me crazy! I can only imagine how distracting they were for the audience!

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm not sure what you mean? What kind of answers would you like to see that you don't -- aside from "I'm perfect already!" :)

mediamaniac
mediamaniac

The best training is to get yourself dirty! Do a presentation and then analyze how you can do better. I'm surprised that wasn't an option in the vote!

mckinnej
mckinnej

I was taught public speaking so many times in the USAF that I invariably have forgotten some. There was professional military education. Four different sessions (all but one was in-residence) spread throughout my career. Speaking skills were taught, practiced, and tested. Train the Trainer. Taught how to present material in all formats from one-on-one to classroom. Promotion Fitness Evaluation. This is the "general knowledge" portion of the USAF enlisted promotion test. It has a fairly large study guide. Communications skills make up one section and typically several questions appear on the examinations. If you know this material you can easily pass the written portion of the "Speech" CELP test. Funny story: the verbal portion of the CELP test is the toughest presentation I have ever done. You get 10 minutes to prepare a 5 minute presentation on a random topic. That was the easy part. Talking to an empty room with nothing but a tape recorder freaked me out. I've done presentations to auditoriums full of people and even been on TV, but that tape recorder messed with my head. :)

pfdsotm
pfdsotm

11: Do not read your presentation word for word from the slide show 12: Fewer words are better, IMHO, and it helps with 11: 13: Practice, Practice and Practice. This also helps with 11: Like stated the higher you are up on the food chain the worse the presentations are. Our management also things that by adding little gimmicks, no matter how bad they are, the better the presentation. I sat thru a presentation that had some of the most annoying transitions with some animated objects and sound added. It was poorly planned and brought the entire presentation to a stand still for what seemed like an eternity while the clunky animation ran across the screen. The irony was that it was an animation of a tornado depicting a disaster; little did the presenter realize the disaster was the presentation. Did not matter, those that have no eye saw it as the emperor?s new clothes.

ssharkins
ssharkins

You've made some excellent suggestions. I like them all, but I have a couple of favorites: #6: We work so hard to be efficient that we might think it wasteful to have a lone graphic. It's a good idea to mention that's doing so is perfectly Okay. #8: There are a lot of design and presentation rules and I'm not a rule-breaker, but I do think rules can be broken, if do for a good reason and done correctly. However, you have to really know what you're doing to get away with it! :) I like your advice -- stick to the basics unless you really know what you're doing! Thanks!

ssharkins
ssharkins

And I do it more as I get older! ;)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Compare: Have you had your brain rewired? Have you had someone tell you how to let the words what be coming out of your mouth be coming out more good? I'll do my own rewiring, thankyouverymuch. In fact, I did. ;)

santeewelding
santeewelding

To sweeping in here with a 3,000-word plus opus about how we are. Except, for the additional teaser that, we all present, from the gitgo.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I do agree that practice is probably the key. I don't think most people can analyze themselves well. They might be able to pick out bad habits, movements, twitches, etc. in a recording, but I'm not sure they can then stop themselves from repeating those actions when presenting -- I'm not sure I could, at least, not 100%. But, if that's what you've got, I agree, beats a blank as they say.

WesleyRoss
WesleyRoss

I was a Senior Trainer in the (Army) Reserves, before I retired. 'Public' speaking included 'hip-pocket' training (performed during any lull in daily activities) along with formal presentations, briefings and skills/leadership training. Army Trainers are taught to the standards of the IBSTPI. CompTIA's CTT+ (based on the Instructor competencies outlined by the IBSTPI) requires a 20-minute video of a training session. Powerpoint slides are a small part of training.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Are things going badly for you, or is it that you have a hair up your ass?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Your averse to providing a single sentence of the common English language amongst your countless, cryptic keystrokes. A 3000 word opus? Riiiiight.