(9) sorry I can’t think of a clever title – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

(9) sorry I can’t think of a clever title

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not one for powerpoint presentations. They’re boring and distracting and just words on a screen when I’d rather just see pictures. If you want to tell me about something, please at least act like you’re interested. I don’t want to hear you read the words off the screen and then look at me (the audience) and say “any questions?” No, I obviously don’t have any questions because I didn’t comprehend anything you just said and/or you’re so boring I don’t want to prolong this any longer. Sorry, I’m just being honest . (<–for some reason that song just came to me, its funny you should listen to it)

Ok wait, let me backtrack. I love listening to speakers. I love hearing people’s stories, their experiences, their memories and their difficulties. It’s what brings you closer to someone and tells you something about them behind their hard exterior. It’s a great way to get some insight into what a person is actually feeling and I really appreciate that vulnerability and personal feel. But when you’re avoiding eye contact with me by staring at the screen and literally running through your slides, you’ve completely lost my interest. I get it, though. It’s hard to keep everyone’s interest all the time and its even harder if you’re the kind of person that gets nervous public speaking. But then again, I don’t know, maybe you should practice more. (especially if you’re speaking with a partner)

Hmm now excuse my ADD but this has got me thinking about presentation culture and norms. I guess as the years have gone on,  people have realized that the best way to mentally engage an audience is by actually physically engaging the audience. Some type of group activity or directly  asking us questions has already been recognized as an essential part of presentations. Now it’s time to address the physical space and the group dynamics. Now I’m not an expert (well, a legally certified one at least) but I think that presentations are more well received when we shy away from the classic speaker staring at a few rows of audience and pointing at a screen setup.  All I’m thinking about is that one scent from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off..”Anybody?” “Anybody?” BO-RING.

The future of successful and engaging presentations is focused on changing the dynamics between the presenter and the audience. We should challenge these power dynamics because it shouldn’t be a presenter that comes in out of left field from above, drops off some info and then leaves again. Ideally, it  should be more like an gathering of information sharing in which the presenter and the audience can learn from each other and leave satisfied or challenged–pondering in thought on the way out. It should be a mutual relationship in which the presenter and the audience are on the same level or in a setup in which they feel more comfortable exchanging information in a respectful manner. I don’t know about y’all but I find it way more daunting to sit in a lecture hall setup to ask a question compared to sitting in groups or sitting in a circle in which everyone feels comfortable. My ideal setup? A group presentation where everyone is sitting in a circle on the ground. Oooh on the grass outside would be awesome. Or even better: On a trampoline! But if there are visual aids and other presentation aid materials I guess inside on the carpet is fine too.

And I’m not being that naive. Obviously I know that kind of setup doesn’t always work out. Especially if there are a lot of people or there’s a presentation at a banquet or big conference. But then again even in those large situations there’s better ways to do it. Standing on a stage  holding a microphone in front of a podium makes me want to fall asleep. But if presentation were more like a Ted Talk where everyone is sitting really close to eachother and wrapped around a stage (not just in front of it) with the speaker able to freely walk around and talk directly to the audience–that would be way better.

I take these things kind of seriously. Especially because in high school I competed in a lot of public speaking competitions when we had to learn these cultures so that we could engage our judges and audience as well as we could to get the best score and win the round, duh. And I’m not calling on everyone to listen to me because I guess different things work for different people and you know, some situations are just set up in a certain way and there can be barriers to change. But if I had more time and maybe a research funder I can look more into these dynamics and create an actual academic proposal and be another snooty person that thinks they’re an expert on life (LOL).

But, I guess its time I actually address the blog’s prompt. You can probably tell from my “subtle” references earlier which presentations I liked better than others. I liked the stories of the guy who came in and talked about cultural humility and I liked the simple presentation technique of the dude who came in and talked about his career journey and how we can create goals but don’t necessarily need a set career for life. That one was not only well set up (we sat in a circle on the same level on comfy couches) but there were actual awesome take-aways. For example, I was forced to actually write down what 3 steps I need to take to reach my goals instead of just abstractly thinking about them. And seriously, I use his argument all the time with my parents: not every major sets me up for one job for the rest of my life. That presentation was so applicable to me and really rang clear and true to everything I’ve been struggling over for the last year. Great dynamics, cool dude and really constructive vibes all around. Best presentation right there.

I want to shy away from criticizing seminars in general because they’re actually the only time we’ve been able to connect with each other as a group. I actually regret not being able to talk to everyone more. There’s some people in the program that I actually have never talked to and that makes me sad because I want to meet everyone always! I wish we had more time to sit and talk to each other in groups about what we were working on because it was not until this last seminar that I’ve actually got an idea of what other people are struggling with in their orgs. So more reflection would be cool. Also that one day we got food AND THERE WAS A VEGAN OPTION!! —> My tummy was happy. THANKS 🙂



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