Friday, 15 June 2012

Review by Steve Hall of Staffordshire University

This book is an essential read for anyone wishing to make their presentations more meaningful, accessible and engaging to their audience. It models what it promotes having been written in an engaging style which tells the reader in advance what key messages they will experience and then it delivers exactly ‘what it says on the tin’.

The layout aids accessibility with a clear contents page, a well-chosen and thought-provoking quote at the start of each section and a valuable summary paragraph to end the section. As such it is a resource which can be picked up for specific help as and when it is needed as an aide memoire. That said it is also written so well that once started, putting it down is a challenge as the reader is constantly reminded of what further nuggets of quality guidance and advice are coming next.

Each chapter draws the reader into a conversational relationship with the book which, as you are reading it, suggests the coaching conversations you might be having with the authors, a supportive critical friend or even yourself as you think more deeply about the what?, where?, how?, why? and who to? aspects of giving presentations. The concept of self in terms of you as the designer and creator of a presentation; you as the reviewer and editor and finally you as the presenter and evaluator, learning from each experience and challenging yourself to make your presentations ‘better each time’, is key to the success of the book.

Of special note are the sections which connect skills and techniques of presenting with the psychology of knowing and managing both yourself and your audience as you develop your potential as a Power Presenter. The importance of an audience’s emotional engagement with the material used within a presentation is a valuable reminder of the significance of the social and emotional dimensions of learning and this is an indication of the depth of thinking which the authors have employed in making this book such a valuable tool and resource.

This raising of self-awareness as the authors skilfully take you through each stage of giving a presentation keeps you thinking all the time of the impact of your presentation on others, using a balance of practical tips with insights into how  the psychology of presentations can be used to work with rather than against you. The result is a delightful read which challenges your thinking and gets you reflecting on how effective your presentations might really be.

There are many highlights in the book and anyone reading this as a structured training programme or just using it as a self-review tool when reflecting on how to develop and improve presentation skills, will identify a personalised list of key learning points. This is a further strength of the publication as the reader can use the book to ‘challenge the robots’ of previous practice such as the use of bullet points, sounds and animation, reflect on how effective their existing style might be and consider trying a different approach. The references to the importance of coaching, co-coaching, reflecting and practising remind us that this is not rocket science and yet how refreshing to be reminded that there is the potential to be an effective or even a powerful presenter in all of us.

I strongly recommend that anyone involved in designing, developing and delivering presentations whether as individuals or teams of teachers, trainers and facilitators get hold of this book and use it as a tool for reviewing and revising their practise. Whether it is used in a structured or targeted manner to look afresh at the effectiveness of the use of PowerPoint in particular, it will promote a new level of self-talk and self-review but also renewed professional dialogue between colleagues wanting to make sure their presentations ‘hit the spot’ and are memorable for all the right reasons!

Steve Hall                                                                                                                                  
Lead for Professional Learning
Staffordshire University, School of Education 
May 2012

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