Stuck in a presentation rut? Try collaborating.
Most of us who have grown up under the influence of Western education and philosophy prefer to work alone. It feels normal for us. Despite the group projects we endured in school, or endure now in the workplace, those still feel somewhat foreign to most of us.
But for those of us who are speakers, collaboration can be a powerful tool for creating better presentations. Here’s why.
Think about this. What does your audience look like? If it’s a sea of people exactly like you, great. But if it’s not (and we are 100% certain it’s not), then collaborating with others is bound to help. In her book, Creative Collaboration, Vera John-Steiner says, “Generative ideas emerge from joint thinking, from significant conversations, and from sustained, shared struggles to achieve new insights by partners in thought.” That’s a great way to word it. Your presentation will be better if you can enlist the help of “partners in thought.”
When you collaborate, it helps you understand other viewpoints—like those of the people to whom you’ll be presenting. There may be words or whole points in your message which are unclear or even unnecessary. Or there may be more creative ways to get your thoughts across. But without the power of a collaborative team pointing these things out, you may never see them. A presentation that has been developed with the input of more than one writer or designer stands a better chance of relating to a broader and more diverse audience.
As you begin to develop your content, consider enlisting the help of a research/content development team. This small group of people can help you in gathering information about your presentation topic. Look for people who are passionate about the work you are doing, who have experience or expertise in that area, or who simply love to read or research.
The earlier in the process you can gather this team, the better. Plan to have a meeting or some communication that lets them know what they are “hunting” for and what your overall purpose and direction for the presentation is. Give them a deadline by which to have some content ideas or research findings, and then set them loose. When the deadline is up, have another meeting to show and tell everyone’s ideas for the presentation. Enjoy the energy as you collaborate, sharing and piecing together great material from varied perspectives into one message with a strong, singular focus.
After you’ve written and designed your presentation, pull another group of volunteers together to give you feedback prior to delivering the speech. This group should be different from the people who were part of your research/content development team. These can be friends or coworkers, but you’ll get the best advice if you don’t just pick who know or like you. You need members who are willing to be brutally honest with you when giving feedback. Once you’ve assembled your group, run your presentation as a “dress rehearsal” for them. Following the presentation, ask them:
The feedback will give you a chance to step back, see your speech through others’ eyes, and make those last minute changes that will take your presentation to the next level. You should only use a pre-presentation feedback panel if you will take their suggestions seriously, though. In a “survey of more than 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators across diverse market sectors,” Fresh Inc. found that “90 percent of respondents believed that decision makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40 percent felt that leaders and decision makers consistently failed to do so.” While it can be painful to hear criticism or consider changing things at this stage in the game, remember that the end goal of creating a great presentation is worth the work of listening to feedback and revising accordingly.
Open up your presentation creation process to involve others. As you collaborate with other thoughtful, passionate, creative individuals like yourself, you’ll break out of that presentation rut with newfound energy.
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