The principles of effective presentation are formed over five different phases. Each phase has its own added value in the overall presentation process. Take a closer look at the five phases of the reflective cycle of effective presentation.
1. Preparation audience
There are, first of all, clear limitations to the ability of presenters to convince their audience. The capacity of the audience to ‘digest’ the information offered verbally is much more limited than in case of a written text. The audience cannot flick back a few pages to look at the previous arguments, or push any ‘repeat’ button if the argument is not clear right away. Interaction with the audience could hinder (because of noise, for example) the presentation. There are important communication barriers in the interaction between a speaker and the audience:
Speaking does not necessarily mean listening
Listening does not necessarily mean understanding
Understanding does not necessarily mean agreeing
Agreeing does not necessarily mean applying
Applying does not necessarily mean remembering
(Fendrich, 1979: 18)
But, one can also turn the limitation into an advantage. The audience can contribute to the presentation by asking informed questions, or by showing interest (or lack of it), which can stimulate the presenter to continue or change in order to directly adjust to the needs of the audience.
2. Preparation contents
The immediate feedback possibilities of presentations can be very stimulating and productive to developing a good argument. Moreover, presentations (and other forms of communication) provide a considerably wider variety of interaction models, which can increase the impact of the message – provided the presenter is able to link the best presentation mode to the audience. What the most appropriate presentation style is, and whether presenters can apply this, depends as much on their practice as on their intellectual ability to choose appropriate means in preparation. The effectiveness of a presentation critically depends on these abilities. Good content is required, but never a guarantee for a good presentation.
3. Preparation constructive shape
If you want people to apply and remember your argumentation, the aim of the presentation can therefore never be to ‘only’ transfer information. Presentation is a social activity, so the audience plays a vital role in the ‘production’ of the knowledge. Presentations only aimed at information transfer underutilize the potential of presentation as a means of interactive communication. For information transfer, writing remains the best tool. This basic idea is supported by the classical Greek theory of rhetoric (see below).
Three building blocks for persuasive presentations
- Logos: the force of arguments, which relates to the contents of the presen-tation, the line of argument adopted, and the evidence that is presented.
- Ethos: The credibility of the person who is presenting the information, which depends on the authority of, or the impression given by, the person. The more credible a person seems, the more an audience is likely to accept what is said.
- Pathos: the degree to which the presentation affects the audience, i.e. whether or not the presentation touches the emotions.
Source: ancient Greeks
4. Actual presentation as co-production
To utilize the potential of presentations to its full capacity, presentations should be an act of co-production between the presenter and the audience, a balancing act between the three rhetorical dimensions. Serving one rhetorical dimension without taking the other dimensions into account always leaves a presentation sub-optimal. The combination of the rhetorical characteristics varies from person to person. It depends on position and experience. To compensate you should work on the impression you make, your arguments and your appeal.
In all cases, the most effective presentations are always those that combine contents with form. More importantly even, good presentation skills can be acquired and trained, provided one is willing to learn it, and organises effective feedback.
Skill Sheets presentation
The ten Skill Sheets about Presentation address real-life, practical questions and problems that you may face in your academic career. Each Skill Sheet provides you with advice and guidance on a specific area and gives you tips to improve your writing skills.
This table tells you which Skill Sheet to go to for a specific area.