Engagement

Much of what I have learned about presenting has come from Stephen Gates, practicing designer focusing on creativity and leadership. Gates accounts the 4 – 12 foot rule, this being the sweet spot when addressing people in person. Closer than this and you are in their personal space, beyond this and you give them permission to ignore you by special disassociation. I’ve found many commonalities between Stephens’ and Ian’s advice, Obvious ones including posture and knowing your material, and less obvious ones including polishing decks, including personal experiences.

Gates also claims that the presenter is the most important component of a presentation. One main issue I had with the presentations(turningout to be progressively less problematic  was that I am yet to witness a presentation delivered better, by more than a single person. I find the guidance and delivery of an individual far more engaging and understandable, as an audience member. Though for obvious reasons for the topics and structure of the workshops these would be fairly unrealistic.

There were complaints by students feeling they had been put in the deep end, being asked to deliver something, to a self-imposed high standard, with little to no experience. One method to tackle this is to consciously observe and analyse the workshops we are already exposed to. Not to say that just because one watched another drive a car they can do so proficiently, but it’s a great advantage. 

Ian has this technique of leaving — what started as a lengthy awkward silence after every question. I have witnessed this technique return huge success’ in regards to getting student to speak up. This was something I found myself struggling to replicate, falling to the standard fear of silence. 

It’s been fascinating to watch two completely different teaching approaches from Course Leader John Fass and Senior Lecturer Ian Hague both yield results with the same group. One is fast paced, intimidating and fills unfilled silence with satirical humour, and the other calm, tangential and unintimidating. Yet they both yield engagement from the class, foster a collaborative environment and transmit knowledge to the students.

For the first presentation, we make a slide deck. It’s no secret that slide decks (without GIF’s) are boring. Thus by the second week we had migrated to a whiteboard. This way, the engagement is reflected back at the audience in ink rather than having a hierarchal disconnect between information flowing to and from the audience.

In regards to delivering content to the class, two alternate solutions became a theme of contention. On one hand we could define what would happen at any given moment during the workshop, with the advantage being clear control. However, I felt this would not cater well enough for a diverse with unpredictable feedback. With an alternative being a defined theme and starting point, that would cater for a given direction that the audience would define through their interest. This is something Ian Hague does quite often — diverting the classes teaching to a specific debate or void of knowledge raised during the class.

This contrast is very similar to the Classical Design approach where a concrete design is finalised then delivered to the audience, compared to a more iterative and responsive approach once delivered to the audience in the form of a Design Thinking approach. Not to say that either is better, however, for an interactive workshop, I’ve found allowing the interaction to guide the learning far more useful for the audience. However, regardless of the size of the class, the engagement seems fairly consistent.

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