Presentation Basics written by Robert J. Rosania is part of the ASTDs training basic series which attempts to demystify seemingly scary topics into easy bite-sized lessons so that anyone can “get it”. This book is written for new presenters and can also be used by experienced presenters to refresh their presentation skills. According to the author you should use this book if you are a:
- Subject matter expert asked to share your knowledge about a new product line with your colleagues.
- Team leader responsible for training team members to implement a new work process.
- Novice training practitioner about to introduce a training module to improve performance.
- New manager asked to share your plans for a division.
- Beginning salesperson looking to influence organizational decision makers.
The ASTD training basic series have a set out structure with recognizable colours and layouts. So it comes as no surprise that the book has an attractive and colourful looking cover and a well structured layout with guiding icons, tables, diagrams, comment boxes with tips and worksheet exercises at the end of every chapter apart from the first and last ones. In my opinion this is an easy book to read and that is helped by it just being 131 pages long. The book is not just for potential presenters, but those involved in delivering classroom training. And dare I say those involved in virtual presentations online can learn a thing or two from it too. The book has:
- A section about the Training Basic Series
- A preface
- Nine chapters. At the end of each chapter is an exercise to aid the presenters preparation
- Some information about the author
Following is a brief overview of what you can expect to read in each chapter.
- Chapter One – Presentation: A Critical Skill: This is an introduction to the other chapters covering what you can expect to learn in them. It also gives an intro to the signage in the book. The best bit about this chapter is its introduction to each chapter which allows you to decide whether you want to read the whole book or just focus on specific chapters.
- Chapter Two – Be Prepared To Succeed: In this chapter preparation for a presentation is distilled into six basic steps; know your purpose, know your audience and its needs, know your subject, write your presentation, choose your audiovisuals and Practice, practice and then practice some more.
- Chapter Three – Getting Ready to Deliver Your Presentation: How should you prepare to deliver your presentation? This chapter has some answers. It gives five basic truths about delivering effective presentations such as there is no one way to deliver a presentation, you know more than your audience and the best presentations are those you are passionate about. It also gives advice on style and technique, verbal skills, nonverbal skills, the first 90 seconds and overcoming nervousness.
- Chapter Four – The Art of Facilitation: This book was written by an experienced training facilitator hence including a chapter on facilitation is no surprise. The chapter focuses on presentations that may involve engaging the audience beyond just presenting information to them. Facilitation is defined and then a number of facilitation techniques such as using questions, listening, transitions and silence are explained. There are brief descriptions of other techniques such as using stories, metaphors, analogies and quotations.
- Chapter Five – Setting the Right Environment: The title says it all, how do you create the right environment for your presentation. For me there is something exciting about this chapter, it explains different room layouts for a presentation using diagrams to illustrate each layout. Further more when to use each layout is explained. The chapter also deals with other environmental aspects such as room setup crisis, size, temperature and noise levels.
- Chapter Six – Choosing and Using Audiovisual Aids: This chapter deals with the obvious, choosing visual aids. It is dated in some aspects because it discusses visual aids like overhead transparencies, but that in no way decreases the value of the chapter, which starts out explaining five myths about about the use of visual aids and progresses to discuss each visual aid, when and when not to use them. A wide amount of aids are covered including flip-chart, PowerPoint, and DVDs. There is a short treatment of microphones. A gem in this chapter is the summary table that gives an overview of each audiovisual, when to use, disadvantages and advantages.
- Chapter Seven – When Things Go Wrong: This book is big on preparation, but no matter how much we prepare sometimes things do go wrong. In this chapter are some tips to handle such times when things don’t go as you expected. It advises on how to create a recovery plan to handle mishaps, and some of the things that can go wrong which it discusses are: wrong room setup, external noise, large room with few attendees, wrong equipment or equipment failure, disruptive attendees and even the presenter forgetting their lines.
- Chapter Eight – Improving Your Skills: This chapter focuses on continuous development to improve presentation skills. The author suggests a number of ways to do this, which include: attending training, teaching a class, writing articles to improve writing skills, volunteer to give presentations, record yourself presenting, read related books and articles, observe experienced presenters, write a workshop or training program, join a theater group, run a meeting and do a team presentation. Also set a goal to put some of these development ideas into practice.
- Chapter Nine – Where To Get More Information: This chapter is kind of an extension of the previous one. It lists over 70 resources for learning more about presentation skills.
When I first started reading this book it initially felt like a waste of time. After all I’d been delivering training and presentations to various group sizes for years. But the more I read it, the more I got into it. It reminded me of things I should be doing and certain things I had forgotten or just simply ignored in training sessions and presentations. The author is a seasoned trainer and wrote the book not just from a presenter’s perspective, but also from a trainer’s perspective. A lot of the tips in the book are very much relevant to trainers. And yes classroom training is decreasing, but it will never totally go away, so learning something new that will make you a better presenter won’t hurt.