Thursday, October 27, 2016

Effective Presentation Skills Workshop

I attended a workshop on Effective Presentation Skills by Bob Dolan. The workshop was held by MIT Global Education & Career Development (GECD). Bob is the Assistant Director for Postdoctoral Scholars. When I arrived, I saw nice photos on the screen from Barcelona (later I realised it has been from the last trip of Bob and taken by himself). These photos were coupled with a jazz music that was played before the start of the workshop. Bob started the workshop by indicating that this technique can release the pressure and stress from a diverse audience who were participating. I had heard from Charles that it is a useful technique and some professor(s) apply it in their classes.

‌Bob was dressed formally, and it was one of the messages in the talk. Although, I confirmed with him that this does not apply in all situations (specially in the field of Computer Science).  Some of the useful techniques that I learned from this workshop are the followings:

  • A study shows 55% of the messages received by a typical audience are not conveyed verbally. People make a lot of judgements from how you dress, how you move when talking, how you use facial expressions, how the slides are arranged, how confident you 'look', where you come from, etc. In fact, people make around 15 judgements in the first few seconds they see a speaker!
  • Control your body movements. There are a lot of undesired moves which are not even captured by the speaker himself. I have seen this in my first videos that Dana captured: my hands were moving without any harmony and control. I can still see trends of this problem in my body movement. Bob mentioned some people have their heads leaning toward one side for a long time without realising it. Monitoring yourself can greatly help.
  • When you have slides, or when you are working on board, never turn your back to the audience for more than 10 seconds. This is interesting and very important for making a bridge to the audience.
  •  TTT rule: when writing on board or slides, first Touch the board/slides (at most 10 seconds), Turn back to audience and point to the slides (with left hand so that you do not block what you pointed to), and Talk. Do not talk when your back is to the audience.
  •  Make sure to have eye-contact to all people or at least all parts of the class/audience.
I asked about opening a lecture with a joke, and as I had seen in another workshop, Bob recommended to start the talk in a serious manner and, as people start knowing you better, apply your sense of humour. A joke is suitable for closing a talk!
The workshop was fun and useful. Bob is definitely a professional in this field.

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