互动 – ‘为什麽需要它?‘

无论你所处的场合是training, facilitationpresentation,与台下参与者的互动也是有效沟通的重要技巧。 简单来说,互动是重要的原因包括以下:

增加信心 在你的环节开始的时候与台下互动是其中一种减低紧张的方法。大部分的演讲者在开始前也会因为考虑太多关于台下参与者的问题而紧张。例如,他们会问难以回 答的问题吗?他们会觉得闷吗?他们会留意我的演讲吗? 与台下对话,感觉他们,让自己知道他们是OK的,这会大大增大你的信心!

弄清楚WIIFM – ‘What Is It for Me?’关我啥事(对,是必较口语化,但传神!)。 事前的准备是回答WIIFM最主要的做法。但是,总会有些事情是你不能预计的,例如,真正出席的
参与者跟会前提供给你的资料不相符。 所以,当场的互动如提问能让你吸取有用的信息,例如,参与者关心的题目。 同样重要的是,这种互动会让参与者觉得你是关心对他们重要的事情!

保持注意力 作为演讲者,其中一个主要挑战是成人的注意力只能维持很短的时间例:美国海军曾在1970年代研究人类只能连续注意18分钟。参与者在桌下把玩他们的手机,blackberry对我们已不是什麽新鲜的事情。保持他们清醒最好的方法就是让他们参与!


Interaction – ‘Why need this?’

Interacting with the participants is essential to make your communication essential – no matter whether the communication take places in the training, facilitation or presentation setting. In short, interaction is important since:

Confidence gaining – One way to alleviate your nerviousness is to interact with the participants in the beginning. Most presenters become nervous before the event starts because he / she ‘thinks’ too much about the participants. Questions coming to mind include ‘ Will they ask difficult questions?’, ‘Will they be bored?’, ‘Will they not pay attention to my delivery?’, etc. Interacting with them, experiencing them as human being, feeling that they are OK people helps a great deal to gain confidence!!

WIIFM clarifying – ‘What Is It for Me?’. Preparation before the event is the major way to answer WIIFM for you. Yet, there is always something unexpected when the event really takes place e.g. participants turning out not to be what was described by the organiser. Therefore, on-site interaction like asking question will gather information e.g. participants’ area of interest for you. Equally importantly, it shows to the participants that you care what is important to them!!

Attention retaining – One of the major challenges to you is that adult has only limited attention span – around 20 minutes as indicated by some study. It is not new to you (and me!!) to witness someone playing his / her mobile phone, blackberry, etc under the table!! Keep them involved in action is the best way to keep them ‘awake’!!

I shall spend quite a number of more entries to discuss about interaction.

One necessary take-away for the participants

As a trainer, you always want the participants to have take-aways by the time they leave the training room. (And as a great trainer, you will want these take-aways can change the participants’ behaviour as well!!) What is the common take-away which you want the participants to have no matter what training course it is?

My answer is to let the participants feel good about themselves on the training topic. For example, if it is a presentation training, let the participants feel that they have the potential to be a good presentation. In fact, lack of belief on themselves is a major reason why people fail to present well. If it is a SPIN training, let them feel that they could exert good influence on the others.

How can it be done? Most importantly, it is through the atmosphere you create in the class, as well as the feedback you and the fellow participants give. Firstly, you will create a safe, low-risk environment. That is where FUN comes into place. Atmosphere setting can well be a separate training topic by itself. With such environment, you encourage the participants to attempt some small steps. Then, give them motivational feedback – catch them what they have done right. Not that you only tell the good news and hide the bad ones. But you will focus on the desirable behaviours, and even better let them tell you what they have done right (this helps to reinforce their memory). In short, tell them that it is possible!!

Why ‘feeling good’ is important? It is all about behaviour change. It is like those alcohol rehabilitation group, where the lead would like the group to feel good before the group ends. In short, it is easier for people to change their behaviour if they feel good about it. As we learnt in psychology, positive reinforcement works better than negative ones!!

“What can a presentation class do for the participant?”

How would you answer the above question? Probably the answers will include ‘How to use powerpoint?’, ‘How to manage your body language?’….. If I were to answer this question before this week, I would give the above answers. Essentially, a presentation class is to equip the participants with effective presentation skills. It seems to make perfect sense.

My answer is not the same now. I attend a presentation class these 2 days delivered by Bentley Williams. Whilst the above-mentioned presentation skills are definitely parts of the course purposes, there is an interesting purpose which I have not focused on above – the course is to give confidence to the participant. In short, show them that they can!! In other words, you will have discussion, activities, …. etc in order to help them discover their strength.

I feel quite ashamed that I did not focus on this purpose before in my basic presentation class, because it should be obvious. Why obvious? Here is the logic. What will be a successful presentation class? Simple – the participants deliver better presentation after the class. Then, the question is what stop them from delivering better presentation. For the beginner, the lack of confidence is definitely an obstacle.

How could I miss it?

Apart from feeling ashamed, I find such discovery very inspiring. Not just that I can improve my course in the future, but also that I can use the above logic to review my other class. I should ask myself the question – what is the major factor which stop participants from the desirable behaviour? Instead of the traditional wisdom that a soft skills course should equip the participants with skills, it can be equipe them with a belief like confidence!!

‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – A Must-Watch

A 100-minute movie about one presentation delivered by a politican on global warming. This description is basically what ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ is about. Well, such description does not sound very attractive by itself – long presentation, speech by a politican… and it is about global warming…. oh no!! However, if you notice how popular this movie is, you can imagine that there must be something great about this presentation, amid the factual description at the beginning of this paragraph.

Yes, there have been a lot of discussion and attention on this movie, in many aspects. Of course, the main message delivered by the presentation / movie is one – how important it is for us to act now to stop global warming!! On the other hand, it is facinating to have Al Gore to spend so much of his time, effort and will (since not many other politicans or large corporation would love his speech) to deliver this presentation, and thus the above message.

For me, it is also how the presentation was conducted. Other website site like presentationzen.com have staged a lot of discussion and view on this movie. And let me offer mine here. In short, my comment on this presentation – ‘It is a 100% must-watchfor those who is serious to learn about presentation skills’. I think it is close to perfect – let me highlight a few points:

Preparation – I always say that preparation is the single most important success factor in presentation. Al Gore is definitely prepared. You can see from the presentation that he knows the content very very well e.g. at a point, his speech is in pace with the automatic count down of years on the chart, and he does not have to look at the chart. In fact, he mentioned in the movie that he has made the presentation almost 1,000 times. (Not that we have to do 1,000 times, but you should be able to get familiarized with your content after say 10 times. Yet, I still see a lot of colleagues in my organisation I am working in failing to comprehend his / her visual aid and content as they deliver their 80%-similar sales pitch the 11-times.)

Visual Aid – The slides are assisting his arguments. But at work, the slides are replacing or even prohibiting colleagues’ arguments. Al Gore does it by showing the visual aid at the right time – mostly deliver your verbal arguments first, and then show your aid – not the opposite (which is common among our colleagues). On the other hand, the pictures are of high quality e.g. the earth photos in the beginning and relevant e.g. the balance at Chapter 28. In particular, I love the chart he used at the end to demonstrate how the CO2 emission can be reduced by various actions he suggested. They way he (or his team) designed and used the chart is simply an art – to show the contrast, to get the message across!!! In addition, he uses good variety of visual aid – comics, picture, chart, quote… and almost ZERO word slides!!

Movement / Set Up – The moment Al Gore used the elevating machine for him to point out what the world temperature will become – the message cannot be more clear!!

Opening – With a high-resolution earth picture in the dark room catching everyone’s attention, emotionally

Ending – Asking for an action and appealing to the positive i.e. “All of us can make a difference to stop global warming”

Managing the “mis-behaviour”

I am running a 5-day training workshop this week. I am not only a trainer for a few sessions but also the overall manager for the workshop.

Whilst I am writing now, today is the day 2 of the workshop. The discipline is just less than satisfactory. I have people coming late, absent on day 1, using mobile phone / blackberry, and showing up without enrollment on day 2. I am asking myself why – and here are some thoughts

1. Unclear instruction from the trainer e.g. they are simply not clear when they are supposed to come back

2. Inadequate respect to the fellow participants and trainer

3. Need to run the BAU business whilst in class e.g. called by boss or clients

4. Personal reasons

5. Boring class – irrelevant content, lack of interaction

Unsatisfactory class etiquette has always been the major area of concerns for trainers. I have been picking up and creating various ways to render better etiquette, and thus better learning environment for all of us. I think I have done well to tackle point 1 and 5. The most difficult ones are point 2 and 3. For point 4, it is more that you show your understanding and check whether they should leave the class at all.

A personal learning from this workshop on managing etiquette – I was quite upset this morning. Some gave me lousy reasons why they did not show up on day 1. Despite reminder on day 1, some did not come to the room on time. And then after today session started, I still found some leisurely smoking outside the room. That really irritated me. I came up to them and asked ‘do you when the program is supposed to start?’

If I could do it again, I shall have suppressed my emotion and said ‘I need some favour from you guys. I need to tighten up the time flow so that people do not have to stay late, and we could all have a better learning environment. Could you please help to take a lead?’

In short, people will likely follow if you show respect. Or people will do what you request rather what you instruct.

Emotion control is another important learning point. As a trainer, you will someday got irritated by some behaviours. But no matter how wrong they are, you will lose if you show your emotion, cos you are the one representing the atmosphere of the class. Emotion will also make you less able to challenge your own assumption – you will think ‘They do not show up because they do not respect me, or that they do not control their work schedule well enough!!’ Sometimes, your participants may really have something urgent to attend e.g. I have one who has his father sent to the hospital during a class. It will be a disaster if you get angry and show your emotion as he is always on a call!!!

So, the learning points are:

· Never show your emotion

· Give clear instruction

· Don’t be boring

· Pick up effective tricks / ways to manage mis-behavior

· Be aware of your assumption why mis-behave

‘Why business people speak like idiots’

Another book recommended bythe presentationzen.com. There are a lot of good tips about how to get your message across effectively. On top of presentation, the book is actually more about business communication in general – more specifically about how ineffective business communication has become. Though mistakes mentioned in the book (e.g. use of complicated rather than simple words) are more often committed by native English speakers, the book still issues some relevant warning to non-native speakers. Beyond the book, the authors do continue their effort to ‘fight the bull’ via their website – fightthebull.com!!

Back to the topic of presentation- I am most impressed by an example mentioned in the book about the consequence of mis-use of Powerpoint – causing the failure of space shuttle Columbia.!! Judging from the Powerpoint slide itself (see the slide on the side) which was shown in a meeting the week before the disaster, the slide writer seemed to consider that the SOFI issue can cause serious damage. Yet, this message was unfortunately ‘buried’ somehow in the ‘word slide’. (You can find the full report here.)

In the organisation which I am working in, ‘word slide’ is just so common, to the extent that the Powerpoint slide is supposed to contain bullet points. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. One reason is that ‘word slide’ is easy to prepare – just type, or even cut and paste. It requires no imagination or creativity. And you can readily use the ‘word slide’ as the handout.

In short, slide is not properly used a visual aid….. and in fact, it is not the aid. It is the opposite – making communication less effective. It is sad. I personally have sit through countless presentations / product briefings, progress meetings…. where key messages failed to reach a reasonable proportion of the audience. It is a waste of time – enormous amount of time e.g. a simple briefing can easily have some 20 people for an hour. A wastage of half of the duration can be translated into 600 minutes or 10 hours equivalent. Just think of how much work can be accomplished in 10 hours!!! Not only quantity, but also quality – think of the deadly consequence in the Columbia shuttle case because of ineffective communication.

Well, I believe it all depends on whether you want to simply get the job (presentation) done, or really get the message across!!

‘Hello’ + Name + Smile

I initiated and ran a short facilitation workshop today.   There was a topic ‘What do the participants expect from an outstanding trainer?’   One of my colleagues raised a very interesting point – something not only the outstanding trainer, but also all trainers should have.  It is like a must.   So, according to him, participants will expect the trainer:


1.       To greet them upon arrival

2.       To remember their names

3.       To smile


Simple but important!!  Yet we miss to do it in a lot of occasions, when you are so occupied by the last-minute preparation.   I will definitely remember it as the 3 major golden rules.