I come by my trade legitimately. My grandfather was union leader in Oakridge, Tennessee, my mom is a retired educator, my sister is a teacher. Leading, teaching, coaching and educating are in my blood. Although, I do believe that facilitation or training is a skillset that can be learned, there are also some innate qualities that all great trainers, facilitators, and coaches have. Being in the learning industry for twelve plus years, I have come to recognize what makes a good trainer/facilitator/coach, more importantly I recognize what makes a great one.
Over the past two years, I have coached and vetted many presenters for a sales training program focused on newly hire account managers and systems engineers. Most times, the presenters were amazing, right on the money, they talked to the audience and helped shorten the time to their attainment of sales goals. But sometimes, OY! – the sessions were painful beyond all belief – with everyone in the room including the presenter praying for a swift and painless end to a poorly executed presentation.
What made the difference? Lack of Knowledge of Subject Matter? Poor planning? Death by PowerPoint? Lack of Charisma? Yes and No, on all counts.
The best deliverers of training I know are Jacks of all Trades, only in the best sense of the phrase. As Wikipedia defines them, “Jacks (or Jills) are masters of integration, individuals who know enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring their disciplines together in a practical manner”. They are not specialists, but present holistic solutions to specific issues. These generalists may have a specific area of focus, but their knowledge base is not silo’d. I’ve been in a session where the presenter is discussing service oriented architecture, using a scene from Jurassic Park to illustrate his point, the audience understood his messaging and were completely engaged in the learning process. Definitely not your typical bits and bytes presentation.
Great presenters are willing to explore with the audience the topic they are presenting, and they are willing to look at a topic from a fresh view if it is presented. They have studied and can articulate the general roadmap, but aren’t following the GPS navigator turn by turn. There is no exact script, there is room for side discussions, with the understanding that the facilitator is in the driver’s seat and in control of arriving at the appropriate final destination, on time with everyone still onboard.
They understand that PowerPoint is a TOOL, not the ESSENCE of the session. I have learned more about network security from 10 slides than I learned about unified communications from a whopping 125 (gasp!) slides. AND the security presentation discussion was based upon a dog, a fence and three year old little boy, drawing a picture that led to a great discussion of the company’s security product line. Relevance of topic – not animated slides and transitions make a presentation great. From the PowerPoint perspective less is best.
Finally, I want to address the topic of Charisma. Everyone loves to hear a presenter with lots of energy, who draws her audience into the session. You know the type, the audience laughs at all of the jokes and the slides are so colorful and animated, yet at the end of the session, participants take a break and the chatter in the hall questions – What did we learn? What was the point? Charisma is NOT the end all – it’s a pleasant perk.
So what makes a Great Presenter? Connection is the KEY here. Does the presenter have a relevant message that is immediately applicable to the audience’s needs? Did the presenter give an answer to their questions? Or guide them to resources that they can use long after they have forgotten her name? THAT is what makes a presentation memorable. A viable connection providing value to the audience member’s current role in their company will always be the benchmark of a great presenter.
How does a great presenter ensure that they make that connection? By combining a holistic approach to selling a product or a service and including the audience while gently driving them to a solution, the presenter develops a comfortable learning environment. Add to that, a solid knowledge of the topic that is not dependent upon presentation technology to be delivered and you are well on your way to being a Connected Presenter.