Series: Online Presentation Techniques
By William Murillo
Manger, CES Provider Training
Part 2: Engagement and New Modes of Learning
So you’ve created a presentation and you plan to offer it as a course. You’ve picked your topic according to what current trends tell you architects and other industry related professionals need and you’ve developed this content to provide an immersive educational experience. As it comes time to offer your course, whether face-to-face or through a virtual platform, a new obstacle presents itself. How do you hold your learners attention and not only engage your audience but also generate interest in your educational product and brand?
Last month, we started a dialogue on online presentation techniques and preparing content to maximize the potency and relatability of your presentation. We addressed “whole brain content”, a strategy for content development that strives to engage an audience not only intellectually, but emotionally as well. We also considered new presentation styles, the power of storytelling, and the missed opportunities for productive learner interaction resulting from reliance on bullet points, detracting from our dynamism as presenters. This month, we’ll take a look at unique elements for engendering a participatory experience for your learners, captivating throughout, and continuing a fruitful dialogue post-presentation.
Let’s start by considering the presentation time frame. By now all of us, through the fundamentals of marketing, understand that the time frame of our educational efforts is cyclical. We have content to share so we promote it, whether by email, advertisements, webpages or other forms of marketing. We then deliver our content and follow up with attendees, again via email etc, to ensure that they will continue to consider our businesses for future training. What we’re starting to discover is that this process, as automatic and efficient as it is, leaves very little impact on an audience, resulting in very little engagement. Consequently, there is a greater amount of indifference in most learners on what brand/business to choose for their education. For now, mostly, what reigns supreme is convenience and accessibility with the desire and hopes of quality education. This is very backwards. Understandably, businesses are still in the process of updating standard operating procedures to include advances in social technologies (Facebook, Twitter) and educational platforms (Coursera, Udacity-more on these later). However, convenience and accessibility hold a focus, which should instead be imparted on issues like educational quality that these new efficiencies have offered us.
Now indulge me in considering a loaded question – What is quality education? Well, that depends on who you are, whether a product manufacturer, component, or architecture firm, the definition of quality education for your market varies. Nevertheless, for the purpose of conceptualizing this, consider quality education a fusion of progressive, relevant content and engagement. Popular amongst educators there is a Confucian quote that reads:
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
We’ve talked about content so let’s move on to engaging your audience. Drawing on the above quote and based on my experience, for most learners a bullet pointed PowerPoint just won’t cut it anymore. The likelihood of a learner retaining content delivered in this format is very unlikely but it increases favorably with the addition of images, video, and diagrams. That is because a majority of learners, especially architects, are exceedingly visual professionals. Learning is increased again with the addition of activity and participation. When the audience is labored with a task or a question they are forced not to only engage with visuals but with ideas and questions in an introspective and reflective manner. This is crucial and the basis for a quality course and brand that will guarantee popularity amongst your particular learning community. The following are some engagement approaches that have proved successful:
Tell a story. Even if your topic is highly technical in nature sharing a story about a particular experience can serve to communicate a course of action, a process, or an explanation as well as poke fun at an unexpected mistake. Your learners will begin to view you not solely as a presenter but as a professional with insights that they can relate to, resulting in a much more receptive audience.
Propose an analogy. An analogy gives the audience an opportunity to create a very familiar cognitive relationship or concept to which a presenter can attach some lesser known knowledge or meaning to explain a more complex idea. This will again encourage the audience to actively think critically.
Create a problem. Address your audience with an issue and prompt them through a scenario that questions: What is this? Who cares? What do we do? Ask your audience questions. You have your solution but by asking your audience to participate in this speculative exercise you can collect approaches from a wide range of professionals and start a dialogue about the problem that was proposed.
Break out. Encourage an interruption from the typical presentation format. Making the environment less formal will succeed in disrupting presumed roles of presenter and attendee. Rather than feeling like they are meant to just sit and listen, you can encourage your learners to engage in a group exercise or a group discussion in order to give them an opportunity to learn, discover, and share on their own.
Ultimately, the best way to engage and reach a larger audience is to consider incorporating online services into your continuing education platform. Naturally, many of our Providers prefer a face-to-face model where there is direct interaction with professionals in the AEC community, allowing for networking. However, with current economic stress, online on demand education is becoming increasingly popular for professionals unable to sacrifice billable hours in the office. Therefore, developing an online system can offer you the opportunity to reach not only a wider audience but provide an increased accessibility to education for professionals who are incapable to accommodate face-to-face instruction. Couple this with social technologies like Facebook and you can also ensure the retention of networking possibilities.
So what’s all of this good for?
◦ Identify key influencers in continuing education
◦ Supports your Customer Management Relations Systems
◦ Great for market research and analysis of competition
◦ Wider range of customer support
◦ Great for accumulating feedback
◦ Improve your visibility on search engines like Google
◦ Engage customers, new and old, in a conversation
Remember, social media and online education are simply new tools for offering continuing education and the focus should first lie on developing a thoughtful and comprehensive business, marketing, and educational strategy for you online education platform. When considering the above, ask:
◦ Why do you want to use social media?
◦ How does it fit in with your business?
◦ Will you have a viable return on investment? (Keep in mind tools like Facebook and Twitter are free)
◦ How can I encourage and reward customers who are responsive and encourage those who are stubborn to join in?
◦ Is there something better?
Presently, universities partnering with startup online education companies are spearheading these efforts and exist as the best model for the successful merger of an all-inclusive educational system and social networking technologies. Programs like Cousera and Udacity offer free online courses for university credit honored by institutions like Stanford and Berkley. The possibilities and the potential for outreach seem endless and are being explored by the new breed of educator. Peter Norvig, a computer scientist and Director of Research for Google, is one of the few experimenting with new instructional models. In the fall term of 2011, Norvig taught a class on the subject of artificial intelligence and game theory for Stanford University, attended by 175 students on site and over 100,000 via an interactive webcast. In the following TED Talk, Norvig illustrates lessons learned and interactive possibilities which he had not expected.
Next month, we close with a look at soft skills and technical skills needed for face-to-face instruction and others crucial when adopting an online education format.