Sunday, June 25, 2023

Teaching Techniques: Instructional Strategies for Large-Scale Presentations (2/3)

Let me begin by saying that there are no inherently good or bad teaching techniques; there are only techniques that yield effective or ineffective results. The effectiveness of a technique is influenced by various factors such as the topic, audience, speaker, venue, and even the timing. In this article, I would like to share with you some instructional techniques for large-scale presentations that we have applied or observed others using, ranging from relatively simple to more complex. These techniques can be applied in different presentation settings in the future.

Case Study Method

Storytelling is, of course, the most basic method, but remember that the best stories to tell are case studies, examples, and real-life scenarios that capture the audience's attention. Mastering the art of presenting case studies involves some techniques for providing detailed exposition, such as setting time anchors, describing characters, employing sensory techniques, trimming the story to quickly highlight key points, and delivering the story with authenticity. Personally, I believe that this requires a fair amount of training (consider joining our "Speak with Impact" workshop). The speaker's individual characteristics and preparation also contribute to the overall impression left on the listeners.

Raise Hand Technique

The raise your hand survey is the simplest form of interaction. "Has anyone been to XXX before?" "Those who agree with this statement, please raise your hand. Those who disagree, please raise your hand." "How many of you are currently using an iPhone?" By posing simple questions and asking the audience to raise their hands, you can initiate the most basic form of interaction. This technique is suitable for breaking the ice, gauging the audience's reactions or attitudes, or incorporating suspense into the presentation by revealing the answers after the audience has raised their hands (similar to how Zong Han operates in TEDxTaipei).

The purpose of raising hands is to increase audience participation, encourage thoughtful responses, and it is merely an intermediate step. After the hands are raised, there should be follow-up explanations or interpretations of what the raised hands signify. Throughout the entire presentation, it is not advisable to rely solely on this simple technique. Its effectiveness diminishes after 2-3 repetitions, so it's advisable to vary the techniques used later on.

Question and Answer Method

Directly cue the audience to speak up and invite them to share their thoughts on a specific question. For example, "From the video we just watched, what details did you observe?" "Regarding the case mentioned earlier, what do you think the person did right?" "How do you think the copy of this advertisement could be improved?" These are simple question-and-answer techniques. Similar to the Justice course by Professor Sandel at Harvard, this method involves case discussions and a lot of interactive Q&A.

The operation of the question-and-answer method is not difficult (what's difficult about asking questions, right? XD). The challenging part is... having someone in the audience actually respond!! This might sound obvious, but those who have tried it as teachers know what I mean. The ideal scenario is when the teacher asks a question and numerous hands shoot up from the audience! It's truly a wonderful sight! But... have you ever experienced it? Or let's put it this way, when you attend a presentation, and the speaker asks a question, do you raise your hand to answer it?! (When was the last time you raised your hand to answer a question in a room with 200 people?) So, the method itself is not difficult; the challenge lies in creating the motivation for audience participation and fostering an environment that encourages involvement! (I'll write about this another day.)

Multiple Choice Method

When there are too many people, the raise your hand technique becomes too simplistic and loses its effectiveness after a few repetitions. The question-and-answer method can be a bit challenging, and there are limitations on who can answer. In such cases, you can consider incorporating multiple-choice questions. For example, in my "The Art of Public Speaking" presentation, I asked, "Among the following options, what is the purpose of this presentation?" and listed options A/B/C. Or in Genki's "Prepare for 40% and Take Action" talk, he asked the audience, "In which country is tug of war a popular sport?" and asked them to choose.

Compared to the raise your hand technique, this method introduces more options and variations. It increases the level of thinking required, and participants who guess correctly will feel more engaged and accomplished. Regarding the question design, some people tend to prefer simple and straightforward questions (suitable for low participation levels at the beginning), while others may choose questions that require deeper reflection and have more challenging answer choices (useful when participation levels are higher).

Multiple Select Method

Slightly more challenging than multiple-choice questions, this method allows for even more variations in participation. For example, "Among the following five options, which three are the most common complaints from customers?" or "Among the following six presentation topics, which three were my primary concerns during my first presentation to Foxconn?" It could also be "Among the following five options, which three are the most common symptoms in diabetic patients?" When the questions are presented, the challenge is to select the correct options from multiple choices.

The question design itself is not the issue; the key considerations for successful implementation are twofold. First, consider participation. Why should everyone think carefully? What incentives or motivating factors can you provide to encourage their engagement? Second, consider group discussions versus individual responses. With questions like these, incorporating group discussions before asking for individual answers yields better results in terms of overall interaction. Of course, there are many operational details to consider, such as whether to reveal the answers first or after, whether to ask for different answers from the audience first, or to pose the question first and then provide the answer through a video or case study, followed by further discussion. There are numerous operational intricacies to explore.

In addition to the aforementioned "Case Study Method,""Raise Your Hand Method,""Question and Answer Method,""Multiple Choice Method," and "Multiple Select Method," there are also "Line Up and Look" and "Match and Match" techniques, as well as combining the "Case Discussion Method" with the above-mentioned methods. We will discuss these in the next article.

Towards the end of the article, let's leave another point for reflection: "Does using effective teaching methods lead to positive teaching outcomes? And if not, where might the problem lie?"

See you in the next article of "Teaching Techniques."

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