Helping Students Recognize their Presentation Style

Each year I teach students about presentations and I really am beginning to find myself elaborating on presentation style.  I have been inspired by Joyce Valenza’s Super Presentationman and after I show the video is when I discuss individual presentation style.  Each student is different and when they recognize that and figure out what their personal strengths are, they can consider what style of presentation may best suit them.  So, here you go – these are the various types I often mention – which one are you?

  • The Socializer – you are very comfortable with people in both small and large groups and in informal and formal settings.  You enjoy (and possibly crave) attention.  If you are this type of student, you can harness the power of storytelling as you present.  The storyteller is someone who engages their audience through a story.  That story often makes the audience feel like you are talking specifically to them.  The audience becomes very interested in your words because they can relate to what you are saying and they can relate to the human element of the story by saying “I am like that” or “I know someone like that” or “I feel so sad for that person he is telling us about”.  If you integrate storytelling into the presentation of your content, you will improve your presentation and your audience will feel very connected to you.
  • The Intellectual – You are a smart person who knows a ton about your content.  You have probably met all of your research requirements plus more.  The content interests you to the degree in which feel as if you are becoming an expert on the topic.  If you are this type of person, you can use the power of provocative questioning.  You are actually in danger of the possibility that you may like your content more than your audience does.  If you use provocative questioning, you ask your audience to consider something about your topic that they haven’t thought of before.  You might choose take the most controversial element of your topic and design a few questions that you pose to your audience that get them thinking about their feelings on the controversy.  If it is not the most controversial element that you choose to design your questions around, make sure it is the most interesting concept within your topic that you direct the class towards using questioning strategies.  What this does is it engages your audience’s thought process and hooks them into your topic where they may have not had interest before.  As you lay out the content that you want to convey, you may want to break up portions with questions to keep this trend going.   When you employ questioning, consider tying it with enough “think time” for your audience and also consider allowing for interactivity (maybe a quick poll) so that they can feel like they have an outlet for their thoughts you have hopefully stirred up!  If you integrate provocative questioning into the presentation of your content, you will improve your presentation and your audience will feel very connected to your topic.
  • The Marketer – Are you very persuasive and are often able to get people to do what you want them to do?  Do people tell you that you should go into the sales field because you are persistent in addition to being persuasive?  If you have that gift, then you can harness the power of both persuasion and repetition for your presentation. When you persuade, you want to make sure you have an argument that is extremely strong that people will have no option but to agree with you.  You will want to refute the opposing viewpoints and you will want to use repetition to brand your message into your audience’s brains.  Branding is a marketing tool in which the same message is repeated to the point where the message replays in everyone’s head and it becomes part of their thought process.  If you take one message and strategically work it in repetitively throughout your presentation, you will have a group of supporters by the end!  If you integrate persuasion and branding into the presentation of your content, you will improve your presentation and your audience will feel very supportive of your thesis.
  • The Worried One – You might know your content very well.  You might even be a very social person.  Even so, when you speak your mind gets the best of you and you fumble (you might even stutter or repeat the word “um”, you may become nauseous).  If you are this person, you may want to consider making a presentation very strong with multimedia tools.  Maybe you want to create a video of you explaning your topic in a unique way (in a different location and at a different time you may not be nervous).  Another thing you could do is create the coolest Prezi ever seen or locate a very moving video on your topic.  What you want to do if you are very, very nervous is carefully plan to share impressive media versions of your content and break them up with speaking (because you will have to do a little speaking – it can be reduced if you need it to be).  If you integrate multimedia into the presentation of your content, you will improve your presentation and your audience may not even find out that you are nervous.
Those are the examples I provide when I discuss that each of us has different personalities and those personalities align with different presentation styles.  A person may be able to use techniques offered in various types and their personality may be a hybrid of the examples.
In addition to this I mention the fact that communication is so important.  For example, in a job interview, if a person does not make eye contact with everyone on the interview panel, the people on the panel may not prefer the candidate.  They may not be able to fully place why they did not feel fully comfortable with the person who was interviewed.  The panelist may only be able to articulate that they did not feel fully comfortable with the candidate.  The result is that the candidate does not get the job and it goes to someone who is stronger at communication.  A little thing such as maintaining the proper amount of eye contact and evenly distributing it to everyone that you are speaking to may equate to the perception people create about you.
Throughout history, Presidents have either reaped the benefits of making people feel connected to them through their presentation style or have suffered the consequences of not having strong presentation skills.  It may be that a President has had many accomplishments; however, unless they engage with their public through communication, they may remain unpopular.  This is another example of the importance of matching your presentation style with your personality type and maximizing its potential.
Good luck as you grow as a presenter!  I am certain there are more presentation styles!  If you have another style to add to the list, please add it to the blog in the comments section!

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