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More Than Just a Good PowerPoint—AFP Master Speaker Training

June 13, 2017

by Ann Rosenfield

Honestly, just being at AFP IHQ made me feel a lot like Mary Tyler Moore without the hat to throw in the air! It was great to be at AFP and have the chance to meet colleagues from across the US and Canada who all were interested in serving the profession by training as a Master Speaker. To tide you over until the next time the course is offered, below are a few of the great tips I learned over two jam-packed days.

You’re the expert 

Before you arrive to give your talk, you will want to ensure that you have set expectations with the event organizer. Our trainer, Dr. PJ Bischoff, noted that if someone is bringing you in, you're the expert. She stated that you decide format, and your format doesn't have to be all lecture. In addition, she emphasized the importance of defining the outcomes with the organizer so that you can use a variety of approaches.

Be prepared before you start 

Bischoff suggested that you meet people as they come in for your session. This makes a connection and helps you to know your participants. For those of us who are poor with names, she recommends bringing cardboard and a sharpie to allow each person to have a table tent with their name.

Pro Tip: Always bring painter’s tape and markers for presentations. That way you can stick stuff on the walls without ruining them and you aren’t caught off guard if the venue doesn’t have markers.

Getting off on the right foot

Perhaps one of the most important lessons Bischoff taught us was the value of treating participants as adults. Adult learners are strongly of the “learn it today, use it tomorrow” mindset when learning. In a break with recent conference custom, but bearing in mind different learning styles, Bischoff noted that some people's learning styles mean they need printed handouts in the session and recommended we provide them.

She kicked off the training by breaking us into groups with a set of questions to answer. We then had to post our common challenges on post-its and group responses by category. This allowed both her and us to clearly see what the group needed to learn.

Pro Tip: Post-It notes don't stick to Post-It paper! 

The key to helping participants retain information is to combine techniques. The old “stand and lecture” method is not optimal to helping your participants remember what they learned. Games are also a great way to teach adults if they are respectful.

Pro tip: Offer both auditory and written rules if you have your participants do a game as a learning activity.  

ann rosenfield

Adult Learners and Peer Professionals Can Be Challenging Participants 

One of the challenges in training peer professionals is that people have a wide range of relevant experiences that they bring to the session. Bischoff strongly recommended that in training, the only hard line you can't cross is ethics. She noted that everything other than ethics is relevant as life experience.

Pro tip: When a participant offers an idea that is incorrect, the phrase "But the body of knowledge is..." can be very helpful. 

Great Groups 

Groups can be a great way to learn, but it is important to not just put people in groups randomly. Have an idea of what you want the group to accomplish and what their makeup should be. For instance, consider if you want people mixed together by experience level or want people of similar skills and backgrounds to be together. In addition, if the group is doing well in discussion, the facilitator can sit back and let them chug along. The goal is for the group to learn, not to have the presenter speak.

 Pro Tip: You can have each break out group focus on a different topic.                   

Phones, Technology, and Social Media, Oh My

While technology is a great benefit, it needs to be managed. Bischoff remarked that it is important to not let technology get in the way of the presentation. If your technology fails mid-presentation, then simply launch into an activity while you fix the tech issue. Recognizing that people may have important calls they can’t miss, it was suggested that presenters check if anyone has a critical call planned and simply schedule break for that time.

Pro Tip: Ask the social media users to sit in the back so they can tweet without bothering the non-social media users.  

Try Something New  

As a final word of wisdom, Bischoff noted that it is ideal to try one new idea each time you present rather than trying a lot of new approaches all at one time. By only trying one new thing each time, you can gradually improve your skills over time. With the Pro Tips and ideas above, your next presentation can be better than ever.  


Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is an award-winning charity leader and the Principal for Charitably Speaking. She is also the editor of Hilborn Charity eNews. 

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