top of page

Practice what you Teach

Find 7 tips for being a better facilitator or presenter, the do's and don'ts to engaging and wowing your audience.

I am writing this Blog on the plane back to Darwin in the hope that I can help other presenters, facilitators and trainers to deliver a better presentation and to practice what you teach.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel’. Maya Angelou

Yesterday I attended a train the trainer session in Sydney to then deliver the content on my return to the Northern Territory. I deliver training within my organisation to employees who provide a vital service to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people, those with a disability. I am blessed to work for an organisation that is supporting these vulnerable Australians to build on their abilities and offer them the opportunity to live a better life and do the things they have dreamed of doing. I am extremely passionate about the work I do in this sector having worked closely with children and adults with disability for many years.

As a facilitator we need to lead by example, walk our talk and motivate others to do the same. The training I attended did not align with the values of the organisation and the facilitator did not walk her own talk to say the least. Now don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the content of the training. The content was written effectively, was written with the audience front of mind and was well structured. But then how did it go so wrong?

The facilitator delivering the session was a Subject Matter Expert. Her passion and knowledge for her topic was clear however her delivery style and attitude towards the audience of the training was questionable.

So how can we make sure that we, as facilitators, demonstrate our own values and the values of the company whilst delivering an engaging presentation or training session?

In the following section I will discuss the ‘musts’ of delivering training in order to engage, motivate, and leave your audience inspired. One of my favourite quotes fits very well with this blog and inspires me everyday to go beyond words with my audience and make them ‘feel’ my passion for the topic.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel". Maya Angelou

1. Show respect and be humble

Yes, as a facilitator we have the spotlight, but that does not make us any smarter, better or more experienced than our audience. We need to be humble in our delivery and respect the knowledge and experience of our audience, this is key to delivering an engaging, motivating and inspiring session.

There is an ice-breaker activity I like to run at the beginning of a session to prove to the audience what a wealth of knowledge is held in the room.

Going around the room I ask each person to say their name and the total years they have worked in the sector. As I go around the room, I record the number of years each person states on a white board. Once everyone has had a turn, I then total the number of years up. Everyone is always surprised at how many years combined experience is in the room and how unachievable it would be for one person to have that many years’ experience on their own. This activity demonstrates the benefit of collaborating and the sharing and respecting of other people’s knowledge and experience.

It is likely that although there is a wealth of sector knowledge in your attendees, they may also hold conflicting views. It is important to guide the conversations, park items that are not being resolved and respect the views of others, even if they do not align with your own. It looks very unprofessional and downright tacky for a facilitator to be engaging in an argument with an attendee.

Your ability to control the direction of conversation, questions and answers will determine how successful your facilitation will be.

Be mindful of the language you are using and ensure that your terminology is sector and politically correct. Instructing your audience to avoid certain terminology and then using that terminology in your delivery will not look good.

2. Lead by example

If you are running a training session or delivering a presentation and fail to demonstrate what you are teaching or speaking about, then you are very likely going to lose your audiences trust and respect.

For example; if you are delivering a presentation on treating people with respect and respecting the opinions and views of others, but then treat your audience with little respect and shut down their views and opinions, how do you think your audience will feel about you? Surely it wont be fondly.

Leading by example is vital when delivering training or a presentation.

3. Be passionate

Passion is contagious, uplifting, motivating, energising and engaging! Deliver you presentation with passion and you will have your audience's undivided attention. Your audience will know if you are delivering a presentation on something that you have little interest or investment in. If you do need to present on a topic that you are not passionate about (like the monthly report), do your research, practice and plan ahead, think optimistically and present with energy – chances are this will be perceived as passion.

4. Be knowledgeable

Know what you are talking about! Inside out, back to front, upside down, KNOW IT! If you don’t know it, have a Subject Matter Expert in the room to refer to if a tough question comes up or to fall back on if you get into hot water.

5. Demonstrate your values and connect with your audience

You audience is more likely to engage when they know a bit about you, and I don’t mean your position and email address. I mean real stuff! Like; why this topic is important to you, why you are passionate about it, what your values are, and why you do what you do. Giving your audience some meaningful information about yourself will allow them to get to know you and see you as a person rather than a body at a microphone. Showing your audience your personality and values builds rapport, trust and respect allowing your audience to feel comfortable in asking questions knowing that they share similar values. Inviting questions from your audience and answering them with patience and respect will build your audience’s confidence, allowing them to leave your presentation/ training feeling positive and uplifted.

On the contrary, responding to questions in a condescending or demeaning manner will cause everyone in the room to shut down and promote fear of embarrassment and humiliation. You will be lucky to have another question asked for the rest of your session and will be lucky if anyone takes in another word you say from there on out.

6. Know you audience

Make sure you know who is attending your training or presentation and that you have contextualised your content for your audience. This includes making reasonable adjustments and ensuring accessibility for attendees with disability and other challenging circumstances. Check the current skill and knowledge level of your attendees and cross check against the learning outcomes or content of your session.

Know the type of industry and sector your audience comes from and ensure that you don’t put your foot in your mouth bringing up inappropriate or controversial information.

For example, at the train the trainer session I attended the facilitator must have thought that there were only trainers and facilitators in the room. Throughout the 5 hour session she constantly put down the employees in the position that we would be delivering the training to on return to our regions. It turned out that there were a number of people in the room that actually worked in those positions and were highly offended by what she had said.

7. End on a high!

Last but not least, end your session on a high!

Be mindful of your time and avoid ending the session abruptly. Realising you are 2 minutes from your finish time and announcing, ‘oh look, that’s time, see you and thanks for coming’ leaves your audience in the lurch and makes them feel they may have missed some content.

Encourage your audience to contact you should they have any questions and genuinely request their feedback through an evaluation form or online survey. Close your session intentionally and with warning, making sure you thank you audience for their participation, undivided attention and for being such a supportive and passionate audience.

Hang around after the session has finished so that your audience can ask questions if they like, this shows you are committed to your cause and demonstrates your personable nature.

I hope that these 7 points will improve your ability to develop a relationship with your audience and in turn develop your presentation or facilitation skills.

bottom of page