It’s 2024. I’m excited about the New Year because it’s a busy season for the sci/tech fields, and I work as a communications consultant to science and technology companies. Powerhouse conferences are attracting well over 100,000 presenters and attendees to major venues around the globe. At these events, companies will debut new products and get the chance to tell their stories.
Among the science and technology conferences scheduled for 2024 are CES in early January. In February, conferences such as AAAS, World Ag Expo and MWC Barcelona will take place. More major conventions will follow in March, including SXSW, LEAP and CONEXPO-CON/AGG. April will see the Experimental Biology, AACR and Hanover Messe conferences.
In addition to hosting science and technology conferences, the start of the year is when HR departments typically roll out key initiatives based on their new budgets. In these two areas — participating in conferences and meeting HR needs — it’s essential for companies to make strong presentations. A good training program will help presenters improve their skills.
Not all presentation training is the same, of course. As you likely know, traditional media training and crisis training tend to focus on one spokesperson, usually the CEO, who is put through his or her paces in front of a group.
More broadly, training helps people make better presentations and supports staff development across tiers of an organization. Such training helps organizations maintain a cohesive voice when its team members present to or meet with peers, clients, patients, consumers and other key constituencies.
Train staff members one at a time.
Training for staff members to improve their presentation skills should take place one-on-one, preferably in person, with the trainee’s performance videotaped and played back to review during the session.
Many people who participate in this type of training have never seen themselves in a recording on TV-quality videos before. Some won’t like how they look or sound on camera. Others will be nervous or have difficulty adapting to the role-playing required for the training session itself.
The exercises often concentrate on opposites and extremes, such as gesticulating versus keeping your hands in your lap. This approach shows trainees the range of expressions possible and helps them find a happy medium, such as the moderate use of meaningful hand gestures.
Usually, staff members who see themselves on video will make rapid and substantial improvements in their presentation skills through the positive reinforcement they receive.
The best presentation-training sessions are those in which the trainee helps define the desired outcomes. The goal is for each trainee to strengthen their presentation skills in the areas where they need to improve, so they can best represent their organization.
There are also pros and cons with the training:
- Supports HR initiatives, such as employee engagement and wellness, upskilling and reskilling, and continued prioritization of DEI
- Expands the pool of people who may contribute to the external voice of the company
- Improves how the company communicates internally
- Brings in more voices to fine-tune the corporate messaging and other key materials
- It’s a time commitment, and hence there are opportunity costs.
- People sometimes dread the thought of training sessions (as noted above); this must be managed during the first 10-15 minutes of the session for the rest of the session to work well.
- Some sessions may bring up issues that are better addressed in direct meetings with managers or HR. Trainers need to make it clear at the outset what they will be doing in the session, and what they won’t. As noted, trainers are not therapists nor, for that matter, career counselors.
- Trainees may have expectations for greater involvement in external communications. Again, the trainer needs to stick to the training and not make any promises.
After being trained, people often feel more in control of how they present in group settings such as internal team meetings, video calls or major conferences. Presentation training can also help team members advance within their organizations.
When teams speak in sync, that consistency builds faith among external audiences that company representatives are all rowing with precision in the same direction, which helps companies build brands and manage reputations.
If there’s one resolution your organization should keep this New Year, then make presentation training a priority. Your staff and your organization will benefit.
Justin Warren Jackson is principal of JWJackson Consulting, a communications firm focusing on science and technology. A published author, Jackson has presentation-trained more than 100 companies, organizations and technology departments, from multinational corporations to startup firms. In addition, along with Cherry Dumaual, he co-chairs the PRSA New York Mentorship Program.[Photo credit: f8]