Think about the conferences you have gone to. How many of the presentations were really good?
They had a few clear messages that were memorable, relevant and credible. They engaged the audience – perhaps to affirm, perhaps to challenge.
They were clearly based in good practice and a good understanding of theory. And they provided some ‘take away’ skills, ideas or arguments that were discussed during and after the conference and applied to practice.
And how many were a terrible waste of time?
They didn”t communicate clearly.
They displayed ignorance of existing knowledge about evaluation (making claims about practice based on a narrow experience of it, or claiming innovation for something that is well established).
They used the allocated time poorly – making unimportant points slowly and skipping over important points (common mistake – a long description of a program and the findings from the evaluation and not enough time spent talking about the evaluation process and issues raised) .
Went over time, leaving other presenters without enough time for their presentation (very rude).
Made the least forgiveable mistake – doing “karaoke powerpoint”, where the presenter reads the words on a powerpoint.
(What are the other types of bad conference presentations that bug you?)
Evaluation conferences should set a high standard. After all, these are people who either do evaluation or manage it, whose main focus is gathering and presenting information. And yet evaluation conferences have far too many examples of poor presentations. And the way to avoid them is NOT to sit near the door, but to actually improve the quality of presentations.
This year the American Evaluation Association has introduced the Potent Presentations Initiative, to improve the quality of presentations at the annual conference, and to improve evaluators’ professional skills in presentation.
Stephanie Evergreen, AEA’s eLearning Initiatives Director and self-described general data communications geek, has developed some materials to help presenters prepare for the conference, including a preparation checklist and slide design guidelines.
So here’s the schedule for July for those presenting at the AEA conference in October (the checklist also has good advice for those presenting at the Australasian Evaluation Society conference in August or the European Evaluation Society conference in October):
- Choose 1-3 key content points to be conveyed and then develop notes regarding what you wish to share relating to each key point
- Gather photos or images for use in slideshows
- Check in with copresenters on key content points and preparation timeline
- Expect to hear from your session chair by email
- Ask about length of time for your presentation, discussion time to be reserved for audience questions and a discussant, and the sequence of those events during your session. Papers have about 15 minutes. If you are part of a panel, demonstration, think tank, etc, determine with your chair and copresenters how much time is to be devoted to what content
- Ask about your colleagues’ presentations and coordinate content to limit overlap and respond to one another’s work
Ok, so July is near or at its end already (depending on when and where you’re reading this) – but it’s not too late to work through this part of the checklist.
I’m off to contact my co-presenters …