Need to know how to give a seminar? Great presentations focus on three areas: setting up the room correctly; creating presentation content in a format which will encourage audience response; and giving attendees a chance to ask questions and respond to offers. Many speakers only focus on delivery and tone. Although important, if you widen the focus to encompass all three areas above you’ll find presentation results increase dramatically.
What you’ll need:
- Visual, sound equipment
- Hand outs
- Post-Seminar Surveys
Setting up the room
- Give attendees room to take notes. If using tables, place chairs in a half moon, eliminating chair positions which make it difficult for attendees to participate while jotting notes. If using a classroom arrangement, include thin tables and leave ample space so attendees may leave quietly and not disrupt the seminar flow.
- From the audience’s point of view, place visuals such as flipcharts or PowerPoint presentations to the right of the speaker. The human eye reads left to right. You want the audience to begin with the professional and end with visuals that reinforce that the expert giving the seminar is more important than the visuals.
- Begin with the seminar room slightly chilly. Rooms warm when full. You don’t want guests sweating when the room’s packed and your seminar is only half finished.
- Soft music prior to the speaker encourages guests to relax and engage in small talk. Eliminating this music informs the audience when the seminar is beginning.
- Build credibility by having a host introduce the featured speaker and deliver housekeeping messages. The speaker should stand in the rear of the room and only take stage after a host reads the introduction. The featured speaker should never deliver housekeeping messages (restrooms, food, next activity, etc.).
- Organize seminar points around a logical flow of ideas when creating your speech to lead the audience naturally to the conclusion you desire. Peggy Noonan, speechwriter for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, writes in “On Speaking Well,” that “the most moving thing in a speech is always the logic.”
- Only use jokes if relevant to the material. The speaking organization Toastmasters International advocates jokes, because jokes “can jolt us into seeing things from a broader perspective.” Practice jokes with colleagues before delivery before an audience to avoid unintended results.
- Use hand outs to increase audience participation. Simply duplicating the visual presentation is less effective than developing content in hand out format that supplements the existing visuals.
- Avoid numbering points. When a speaker mentions they’ll review “five ways to build a machine,” some attendees will begin to count points rather than follow the material.
- Close effectively. If offering a survey or follow up, take care of this business first and then end with the speech’s conclusion. One effective close is to offer a story which reiterates the main points of the seminar, or simply a review of the main topics covered.
Question & Answers and Surveys
- Distribute a survey asking for feedback. If offering a product or service, fully explain next steps so attendees feel comfortable with the process. For maximum impact, have the speaker review the survey and discuss follow up before concluding the presentation.
- Avoid tying surveys to incentives. Although this practice may increase initial results, many attendees will complete surveys for the prize instead of any genuine interest in the questions.
- Take questions at the conclusion of the workshop, but defer most to one-on-one discussions after the presentation. Those who wish to leave may do so while those who want more information may receive it.
Giving a great seminar isn’t only about knowing the subject matter. That’s job one, but to create a successful event, set up the room effectively, work on speaker delivery patterns, and end the session with question and answers and quality surveys.