As you may know, I am on the faculty at Western Colorado University, in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. For the last four years I have coached grad student creative writers (poets, genre novelists, and now screenwriters) on Public Performance presentation skills during the department’s summer intensive in beautiful Gunnison, CO.
Each year I have been impressed with the quality of the writing across the genres, and also with the willingness of each student to open up to my coaching, which I’ve designed to help typically introverted writers to embrace public performance of their own works. After all, a good reading can help sell books! And it’s very important to all of us on the faculty that we are preparing our writers to succeed in the real world.
My group of students for 2019 was terrific–and more diverse than ever. In addition to coaching the third year MFA students extensively (all of whom must give a public reading of 15-20 minutes from their work), I also held a session with the second year genre fiction class, and conducted a number of sessions with the first year poetry group. The improvements in each case were palpable to all in the room. As is typical, some students took small but tangible steps toward comfort in public performance, and others seized the opportunity full on and ended up delivering truly exciting readings.
My congratulations to all my students. Well done! Here’s a picture of me with the 2019 MFA/MA graduating class. I can’t wait to hear more from all of you. If you’re a writer looking to hone your skills, you should check out the excellent program we have at WCU and join us. It’s a low-residency program with a great in-person summer residency each year. I’d love to see you there!
Last fall, I provided one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching sessions for a number of executives at one of my clients’ locations. The feedback I received through my client contact afterward was terrific, and I was thrilled that my input had such a positive impact. One of my attendees sent my contact the following praise, and later kindly gave me permission to share it with you:
“I gained an appreciation for the importance of bringing conviction and passion into presentations, including those that seem mundane (e.g. regular updates). Most times as a presenter, you know more about that particular topic than anyone in the room. Over the course of 60 minutes, Andrew reminded me of this point and helped me experience the impact of speaking from the heart with focus and energy. Despite the same slides and message, my presentation of the material at the end of the session was much more powerful (and literally felt better) than my handling of the same content at the start.”
I also coached this same executive again a few weeks ago. Since our session in the Fall, he has been promoted to a leadership role, and he needed to prepare his presentation for the company’s upcoming Annual Sales Meeting, which the company’s new CEO would be attending. This time we worked virtually for two hours. As I typically do in these sessions, I gave tips and suggestions for improving the PowerPoint presentation materials themselves, as well as for how to deliver the presentation with maximum impact. I dropped the executive a note the week after the sales meeting to ask how it went. He reported that he had hit a true home run, and that the praise he had been receiving from both his peers and his superiors has been almost embarrassing in its enthusiasm. I’m not at all surprised; this fellow takes input to heart, and puts it into action immediately. And clearly, the results showed! My congrats to him on his success.
Today, I’ve just completed a couple of one-on-one coaching sessions at another of the company’s locations, and again great work from both people. It’s always a pleasure when people walk in, eager to communicate!
One of my clients is flying me down to their Knoxville, TN office this week, where I will provide some one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching to executives, and also lead my full-day “How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro” course for a group of 15-20 students. It will be a busy few days, and should be a lot of fun!
I was recently invited by one of my former students to visit her company, a major coffee and coffee products corporation. Laura brought me in to teach the same full-day course she took with me back at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2010 conference: How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro. In addition, she engaged me for a day of one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching for others at her company.
I love teaching and coaching, and I had terrific students both days. The results were fantastic. Working with people so enthusiastic about learning and trying new things, and seeing major improvement in their work by the end of the session, is always incredibly gratifying. I was genuinely impressed with the talent on display at this company.
For the full-day voiceovers program, I had almost 20 eager participants, with varying degrees of comfort in front of a microphone. The audience for this particular program is Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who need to create their own eLearning for their team or department, including crafting the voiceover script, recording the voiceover, and editing it to make it ready for use in an eLearning module. I introduce the key concepts, then let my students play hands-on, and provide guidance and feedback along the way. Throughout the day, participants share their results in a supportive environment. Nothing beats learning by doing, and my students used every minute of the day to experiment and improve. I encouraged them to explore scenarios “outside the box” in creating their scripts, and to consider the use of humor when appropriate. The creativity each person displayed encouraged even more creativity in the others, and everyone had a great time while learning a lot and producing some truly memorable learning moments. When the students presented their final projects at the end of the 8-hour day, every single one showed major improvement, and everyone in the room heard the indisputable proof. There’s going to be some great eLearning coming from these folks. One of the students wrote to me afterwards:
Thank you for the informative and inspiring class you taught last Thursday! I’m very excited to begin implementing all the new things I’ve learned.
Thanks, Lori! I also had a great experience with each of my Presentation Skills clients. At the end of each one-hour session, the client was able to deliver their content with far greater assurance and impact. Each was excellent at taking in and working with my comments and suggestions. It was great to see each person grow in skills and confidence so markedly in such a short space of time. Laura sent around a satisfaction survey afterward, and told me the feedback was terrific. Here is what one of my Presentation Skills clients wrote:
I gained an appreciation for the importance of bringing conviction and passion into presentations, including those that seem mundane (e.g. regular updates). Most times as a presenter, you know more about that particular topic than anyone in the room. Over the course of 60 minutes, Andrew reminded me of this point and helped me experience the impact of speaking from the heart with focus and energy. Despite the same slides and message, my presentation of the material at the end of the session was much more powerful (and literally felt better) than my handling of the same content at the start.
Thanks, Tom! I really appreciate the feedback. And my thanks again to Laura for inviting me to work with the talented folks at her company. These students strongly reinforced my longstanding belief that coaching and gardening (one of my other loves) have a lot in common. If you provide good people with the right conditions and an encouraging environment, great and even remarkable things will grow out of it. Or, to embrace a coffee metaphor, if you put quality ingredients in the cup, and stir it up, you’re going to create something everyone wants. I look forward to my next visit!
I’ve just returned from attending the Adobe Learning Summit 2011, and from being both presenter and attendee at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference. I had a fantastic time. Both conferences had excellent keynote speakers: Steven Berlin Johnson on the collaborative nature of innovation, John Medina on applying “brain rules” to learning, Nancy Duarte on visual impact, and Michael Wesch with a moving final talk on the implicit social responsibility behind social media. There were also some very good peer-led sessions as well at both conferences. Plus, it’s always exciting to see the new eLearning products from the vendors at the Expo. Articulate’s upcoming “Storylines” and Michael Allen’s long-awaited “Zebra” are both coming to market this year, and you should keep an eye on both of those software applications; they have enormous potential.
At the Adobe Summitt, I was delighted to meet Shameer, Akshay, RJ, Allen, and a lot more of the brilliant folks behind Adobe’s wonderful Captivate software. They were great to talk to, and extremely responsive to everyone’s suggestions for future enhancements. I’m sending them a list!
It was fantastic to have the two conferences co-located in the same week; I hope that becomes an annual plan. The perfect Orlando weather didn’t hurt, either.
In addition to my full-day pre-conference certificate program on voiceovers (see my next post for a write-up!) as part of the Learning Solutions conference, I also led a one-hour Presentation Skills 101 class each of the three days of that conference, helping e-Learning professionals overcome the classic roadblocks to delivering an engaging and inspiring presentation, regardless of the topic or medium. The attendees participated actively, contributing great examples from their own experiences, and gave me great reviews afterward. I like to think that there are a lot more e-Learning professionals out there now who can get up in front of any audience with confidence and really make a difference. I was very pleased that Nancy Duarte’s conceptual talk about the importance of “resonating” with an audience was a perfect companion talk to my own sessions, which provided hands-on ways to do it!
I also met a lot of great people from all over the place, and hope a lot of us can stay in touch here, on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, now that the conferences are over. My only regret: I couldn’t fit the gorgeous Orlando weather into my suitcase to bring home with me! 😀
NOTE: If you attended one of my Presentation Skills 101 sessions, I’d love to hear from you about how you’re implementing the tips & tricks I shared. I’m always happy to bounce around new ideas, or offer suggestions, if I can be of further help. If you didn’t attend, but this sounds like coaching you need, please see my Coaching tab.
My thanks again to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to present these sessions, and to Juli Balding, Ina Brasher, and the rest of the gang at the eLearning Guild for the fantastic support throughout. Well done, all!
The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 is almost here. Next Tuesday, I’ll be presenting my full-day certificate program on voiceovers for eLearning. And on Wed-Fri mornings, as part of the Morning Buzz agenda, I’ll be presenting my 1-hour discussion and coaching session on Presentation Skills.
If you want to sign up for my voiceovers hands-on workshop, you should contact the eLearning Guild immediately to see if any spaces remain. My Presentation Skills sessions will be open to all. Click the logo on this post to visit the Learning Solutions 2011 web site.
If you’re registered for my voiceovers workshop and have any questions that need answering before the event, now is the time to post here on my site and I’ll reply as promptly as possible. The e-mail I sent via Juli Balding, and my other posts on this site, should answer most questions.
I’m also attending the Adobe Learning Summit on Monday, so it’s going to be a busy, learning-filled week! I hope to see you there. 😀
In addition to the full-day eLearning voiceovers program I’m teaching as part of the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference in Orlando, I’m also going to be leading discussion/coaching sessions as part of the Morning Buzz breakfast chat programs from 7:15-8:15AM on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 3/23-25. I’ll be in the Crystal Room on the ground floor of the Disney Hilton for these three Morning Buzz sessions.
When Heidi Fisk and I discussed making session this available, my goal was two-fold: First, I want to help eLearning professionals improve their speaking and presentation skills so that they can “sell” their important ideas to stakeholders and advocate for eLearning more compellingly. Second, I’ve noticed that at any conference, there is always a mix of people who can really stand up and command the room, and others who may have interesting ideas but simply don’t know how to “connect” with the audience. Bottom line: If you can’t communicate effectively, your great ideas may not reach the people who need to hear them. If you’re focused on your laptop, never making eye contact, never “engaging” the room, your ideas may languish unappreciated. I can help.
So, I’m offering my Presentation Skills 101 session as part of the Morning Buzz each day in the hopes that some of my attendees will be speakers from the conference itself who need some quick, proven tips & tricks to really make their sessions memorable. If you know anyone presenting at Learning Solutions 2011, by all means, suggest they stop in for one of my sessions before they give their own. I’m betting that even someone who already feels comfortable in front of an audience will pick up a couple of tips. I usually charge $125/person for a session like this, so for attendees this represents an hour well “spent!”
If you haven’t already signed up for Learning Solutions 2011, it promises to be an excellent conference and you really should consider attending. Click the logo on this post to visit the site, read the agenda, and sign up. They also have great iPhone/iPad/Android apps so you can carry your conference schedule with you everywhere. I’ve already downloaded mine and have started setting up my schedule. Neat!