Blessed are the speechmakers

15 Mar

Today's lesson in presentation skills is taken from the Catholic church. It's reported that priests have been advised to limit their sermons to eight minutes, to make them topical, and to avoid reading from scripts.

Today's students need to listen to these lessons. I have just assessed a rather flat presentation in which the team read from typed scripts inevitably resulting in a dull delivery. Yet when I asked a challenging question, the unscripted answer was fresh, interesting and academically sound. They were capable of being interesting, but seemed to think that dullness was expected of them.

The best explanation I've heard for why student presentations are so often so poor is that they only have university lecturers to emulate. Oh dear. 'University lecturer, you have just an hour to speak with deviation, hesitation and lots of repetition on the subject of…'

5 Responses to “Blessed are the speechmakers”

  1. Soyini 16/03/2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I have spent quite a few Sundays (and occasional Saturday evenings) trying to focus during a boring homily. So this Catholic welcomes the new restrictions.
    But to be fair, lecturers are second only to priests in creating mind-numbing presentations.
    Many would improve if they treated their audience as a participant in a conversation. Then their natural inflection returns and they automatiocally become more engaging.

  2. Richard Bailey 17/03/2010 at 9:15 am #

    Aping Cluetrain:
    ‘1. Lectures are conversations.
    2. There’s no congregation. Only community.’

  3. Soyini 19/03/2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I just added that book: The Cluetrain Manifesto to my every expanding reading list. Thanks for referring to it.

  4. bianca 19/03/2010 at 8:05 pm #

    I had seminaries where students were supposed to prepare a speech and speak freely in front of all, about 10, 15 minutes and the rest of us criticized them after. That went very well..

  5. Ben Cotton 21/03/2010 at 11:05 am #

    Looking back to my student days I think many of the groups I worked with were generally risk averse. Individuals didn’t want to get anything wrong and mitigated against any risks that may have a negative impact upon grades.
    For some students this meant reading around the subject, whilst for others it meant writing a script. The difference between the two approaches is huge. I also think many teams suffered from group think with people wanting to conform with the majority.
    Whilst, I sympathise with those adopting the safety first approach and reading from notes, taking the time to read around a given topic will result in a much more authentic and human presentation. Not having notes may seem like a high risk strategy, but it is those who take risks and show initiative and creativity that will distinguish themselves from the crowd.
    If that doesn’t persuade you, perhaps this will? Reading from a script is boring for your audience and it is often your audience who will be marking you!

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