I got a great question this morning from a fellow learning practitioner working at the UN in Geneva, asking for ideas about how to structure 20 short participant presentations over a 2-day workshop.

I wrote a blog post last month about using Pecha Kucha’s and Ingnites for this kind of thing (see The End of Boring…), and went on to suggest how to use this in a workshop where people might not have prepared to try a new technique.

Why not let people choose between doing a Pecha Kucha and doing a poster for their 5-minute presentation. Tell them 50% can do one and the other will do the second technique. See if they self-select between the two after an introduction to the techniques.

For the Poster, tell people that they will have a flipchart size sheet, coloured markers/collage materials and their product will be photographed and shown on the big screen as a guide for their 5 minute talk. You can give them a word budget too if you wish – 10 words, 20 words – or you could have them pick a card and the card number gives them their word budget, so they will all be different. That gives them a little more drama, as their Pecha Kucha colleagues will experience.

Then give people time in the workshop to prepare themselves, say a 45 min or 1 hour prep period before the presentations start. And finally, put them into pairs to do this preparation work (even mix them, one poster person with a Pecha Kucha person). This pairing gives them some support and someone to bounce ideas off of, it also gives them a deep dive into someone else’s work, and let’s them experience the other technique they didn’t choose. The one-hour investment in preparation time will be made up through the 5/6 minute presentation time frame (versus the 10-15 min per person they might have expected normally), and provides valuable relationship building time.

After the preparation time, set up the sequencing, let people pick a number between 1-20 out of a hat, which will give them their order. Then schedule them in 5 presentation blocks (that is roughly 45 min, with the transition times). After each of block of 5 presentations, plan on a reflection discussion for 10 minutes – what are people noticing about the presentations? What patterns are emerging, what might that mean for our topic X or Y. Change the questions for this reflection slightly each time for variety, as well as a useful opportunity to help move people’s thinking on your topic. Pull out different things, about one aspect or another, or about what we can do with the new information we are getting (so how it contributes to our action, next steps, or other goal of your workshop.)

For timing within the overall workshop, it depends on what purpose these presentations serve. Are they briefing people on the other participants, on work between a previous meeting and this one, information on the activities of many different offices of members in a network? If so, then it would make sense to start this early, such as after coffee on Day 1 and finish after lunch the same day. Or perhaps it is on commitments ore personal action plans for the results of a longer workshop, in which case you will want that at the end. See when the information given is most useful for the work you are doing. With 20 of these, it would be important to work it around a break, coffee or lunch.

Other interesting presentation-linked techniques that I have seen recently (not linked to the above scenario, but cool anyways – I want to remember them in any case so I put them here!):

  • Give a “quiz” at the end of the presentations. This would also work for the 20 presentations referred to above. As people present, note down some of the key points, interesting facts, etc. Then at the end of the presentations, to start the discussion, ask the audience the quiz questions. Question by question, ask for the answers from the audience; then if desired, ask the speaker to complement this with (only a little!) additional information. This is also the way to focus the discussion on a certain line of inquiry if that is helpful for your workshop. You can also decide if you want to tell people in advance that there will be a quiz or not. If you do, you might get them to pay more attention to what they are hearing; surprising them will wake them up for the discussion. See what makes sense for the group.
  • Introducing speakers: Have the audience introduce them. Put up on the screen a photograph of the speakers (with their name and title if you want, or try it without and also ask the audience for their name and title) and walk down into the audience and ask people to introduce this person. Some people will have heard something about them, read an article, or met them, let the audience say a few words about the person and then ask the speaker if there is anything they would like to add. I saw this at the Battle of the Bloggers at Online Educa last year with an audience of about 150 and it worked brilliantly, and in the end the information got out.

What other interesting practice have you seen for making presentations powerful and memorable? What are the ways we can help people with brilliant ideas and thoughts in their heads share them with others in the most productive way?

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