6 top tips for presenting evaluation findings

Paul Whalley shares his advice on giving a presentation to an audience

There comes a time when your evaluation project is shared.

You’ve written it up with statistical analyses and qualitative insights and made conclusions and possible recommendations…. then you’re asked to present it to an audience.

This can put you on the spot. Everyone wants to present well, both to do a report justice and do a good job for their own sake.

To help, here are my 6 top tips for presenting evaluation findings.

1. Talk to your audience

Talk to your audience in a friendly manner.

You’re here to help by telling them about your evaluation and they’ve been kind enough to come and hear you speak: they want you to succeed.

Here are some pointers:

    • establish eye contact with the audience
    • dress appropriately for the occasion
    • keep hands out of pockets as this can look too casual
    • practice projecting your voice and modulating tone – it’s hard to listen to someone who doesn’t use shades of light and dark in their voice
    • pauses are helpful to punctuate the presentation and give the audience chance to think about what you’ve said
    • when you’re ready, ask a good friend or colleague to critique how you appear and sound.

2. Know your audience

Find out who the audience members are.

They could be academic researchers who want to know about your effect sizes and which statistical tests you used… or they could be people with a general interest in the subject who want greater confidence that it works.

The likelihood is the latter, so pitch your talk for them, retaining their interest rather than loosing them in detail (detail can be picked up later, anyway).

Remember that you don’t have to present everything in one talk – make the talk work in its own context.

3. Get your timings right

Timing is everything when it comes to a successful presentation.

Make sure you:

    • check how much time you have available with the chair
    • time yourself when you practice
    • plan your talk to take slightly less time than you’ve got – you’ll finish promptly and leave your audience wanting more
    • if the previous speaker runs over, resist the temptation to claim the same right - check with the speaker if you need to trim your talk to meet other elements of the timetable
    • avoid the situation where you’re passed a note from the chair telling you to wrap it up!

4. Plan a punchy introduction

Give your talk a good introduction that arrests the attention of your audience and explains precisely what you’re going to talk about.

Think of the introduction as the slip road of a motorway – it’s not the journey itself, but it performs the task of getting you going.

You could pose questions in your intro that get your audience thinking about the answers – you should provide these answers within your conclusion.

Some people use humour to help establish rapport with their audience and settle their own nerves. Others use a thought-provoking quote or topical story to grab the audience’s attention.

Whatever you do, a good introduction will ensure your audience is on your side, ready to listen.

5. Use illustration, explanation and application

In the main body of the talk, set out key points you want to make and give them some flesh.

Try not to give too many points as this can distract from the most important information you want your audience to retain.

Listen to speeches made in public life: many public speakers focus on three points and use alliteration to give them a good rhythm and help memorisation.

For each point, it can be useful to provide an illustration, an explanation and an application.

The illustration could be a bar chart on PowerPoint, a quotation or a story briefly told - something that will bring a little light relief in the same way a window brings daylight into a room.

Then, explain the point clearly, spelling it out word-for-word to your audience.

Finally, state the application – the action you want them to do as a result. This addresses the “so what” aspect of your talk.

6. Make your conclusion

Towards the end of your presentation, refer back to your introduction and make sure you answer any questions you originally posed.

Be as economic in your conclusion as you were in your introduction. Write it out in full to ensure your talk ends with a clear call to action.

End the presentation confidently and concisely – it’s the section of the presentation your audience will remember most clearly.

Your next presentation…

I hope that, by following these tips, your next talk will grab and keep the attention of your audience, moving them to action on the basis of your evaluation.

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