Background: Why a Presentations with Impact class?
Since 2018 we have offered a 1-day Presentations with Impact class at Hanover Biomedical Research School. In these classes, eight to ten PhD students come together to switch up their mostly dry and academic way of presenting for something more dynamic and with more impact. The trainer was Eric Molin, based in Vienna, Austria.
Our attendees came from a variety of disciplines, including regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, technology for hearing aids and cochlear implants, and many other areas of expertise.
Each of their presentations had a different intended audience and purpose. Some presenters wanted to present their findings or talk about their research, some wanted to defend their hypothesis, while others were applying for new jobs or pitching their med-tech businesses. All required different presentation styles, but with a fundamental similarity: they were all communicating a technical subject to their audience.
Due to the ever-increasing travel and social gathering restrictions resulting from the pandemic, the university hosted the course online. We found a hybrid solution. At the university, the students took an extra-large room wearing masks, with proper distancing (2 meters / 6 feet apart), limited attendance (8 participants maximum) and frequent ventilation with the trainer (Eric) connected from his home office in Vienna.
Content phase 1
As with all Impact Presenting courses, Eric focused on teaching the Impact Presenting 4-step methodology. Step 1 focused on overcoming anxiety, being your authentic self, and knowing your audience with the final point being particularly important for those communicating their field to non-specialists in the business world. Presentations with impact require knowing your audience.
Once we understood the needs of our respective audiences, we then covered the 2nd step, which was to build their talk around their call-to-action and customize this to their specific audience.
One participant used the class to polish his pitch of his med-tech venture to a series of investors the following week. Naturally, his call-to-action was to invest in his business (artificial intelligence assisted diagnosis). He then went from talking about his business in a general sense to customizing his talk for each potential investor, making sure to reference what was important to the investor (not him, the presenter). Another participant needed to present her work on vaccinations and viruses to a non-scientific audience. She used a brilliant analogy from the Will Smith movie ‘I Am Legend,’ opening with a question, then after a short summary (that most of the population has been infected with a virus which turned people into zombies, except him), she went on to use his character to explain how antibodies worked, with the class more attentive than before.
One participant appealed to her more analytical audience members by challenging some of the falsehoods circulating about the coronavirus pandemic as well as giving easy-to-remember common sense advice. She used statistics of previous infections to give her talk credibility, and finally, she gave it emotional impact by telling the personal story of a coronavirus survivor who she personally knew.
Content phase 2
In this stage, participants learned to leave behind their boring, data-heavy presentations. Though these might have been acceptable for a dissertation defense, they were not ok in the real world where busy business audiences would have no time for loads of data without context or meaning.
Now having pitched their topic in an easy-to-understand way, it was now time to generate lasting impact with their talks. This is done by appealing to their audience on three levels: logically, credibly, and emotionally.
Step 3 and 4 focused on getting input and engagement from their audiences, not just talking to them. Asking questions and doing audience polls are great ways to begin your talk and elevated their talks to the next level. Participants now focused on getting input and engagement from their audiences, rather than just talking at them. Asking questions and carrying out audience polls are great ways to begin your talk and get audience buy-in from the outset.
Due to the fact that I was teaching via webcam, we skipped the slides and participants used a whiteboard and flipchart instead. This further helped break the “required PowerPoint” culture. Many participants said they were amazed that they didn’t even miss their slides and looked forward to leaving them out in the future. And the fact that audiences were much more interested and engaged further encouraged this new way of thinking about giving talks.
We wrapped up with everyone giving their short presentations, getting feedback from their colleagues, and feeling much more confident (and excited) about their upcoming presentations.
If your university wants to give your graduate and post-graduate students a head start in the business world, get in touch to arrange business-oriented training that really works!
Here are a couple of photos from previous years’ courses (back in the old days when we used to squeeze together for a selfie!)
Class of 2019
Previous years' courses - 2019