Of all the workshops I facilitate, my favorite thing is the last day of a presentation skills class, because that’s when I spend all day watching the participants deliver practice presentations. It’s like having a day off and going to a conference with different speakers on a wide range of topics, and having no idea what you’ll learn about until you get there.
I still have to work, of course—I have to give quality feedback to each person, as well as facilitate the feedback from other participants. But I get exposed to so many different ideas, on topics I would never have thought to learn about on my own initiative. This week I had a class in which I learned about the problems with using too many government acronyms in daily communication, the medical reasons for spaying your pets, how to create a pivot table, the pitfalls of riding ATVs in central New York, and how to use Facebook privacy settings (and good judgment) to avoid potential problems at work. I was inspired nearly to tears by a presentation about soldiers in Iraq taking time out to become U.S. citizens, and another presentation about the nostalgic aroma of chocolate chip cookies and how it evokes memories of our childhood and our mother’s love.
Perhaps the most interesting thing this week was that I had a deaf participant in the class, along with two interpreters. This was a new experience for me. Often I hear from participants that they think their hands, their bodies, their facial expressions are “too busy” and not professional enough during a presentation. I always argue with them, maintaining that unless you are fidgety with your body and thus distracting to your audience, we’re meant to talk with our body language—the more expressive, the better, in my opinion. When we watched our deaf participant’s presentation it was like watching a dance. His hands, body and face worked together to tell a story, and it made the point I’d been trying to make in a new way. We are meant to communicate with our whole bodies, and when we accept that and stop trying to be restrained and “professional,” it’s beautiful.