Sunday, June 25, 2023

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

Today, we conclude our discussion on the operational techniques for large-scale presentations. In addition to what we mentioned earlier, including the changes in my presentation techniques over different periods, from individual interactions to group interactions, and the methods of "Case Study," "Raise Your Hand," "Question and Answer," "Multiple Choice," and "Multiple Select," there are a few more interactive methods for large-scale presentations:

Arrangement Method

Display a few items on the screen in a random order and ask the audience to arrange them in the correct sequence. For example, a simple task could be "Arrange the post-processing steps after ironing: remove, cover, rinse, deliver, soak," or a more advanced one like "Arrange the five steps of systematic curriculum design in the correct order: development, design, implementation, analysis, evaluation." This method can be applied to procedural flows, standard operating procedures (SOPs), step-by-step processes, and more, to encourage the audience to think about the correct order and provide their ideas.

You might be thinking, "Why go through the trouble of having the audience sort it out? Why not just explain it directly?" Well, let's go back to the consideration of learning effectiveness. When a teacher simply states the answer, such as "Systematic instruction consists of five steps: A for analysis, D for design...," the audience's reaction might be, "It's so simple, I already know this without being taught," or they might become disengaged and lose focus. If the teacher teaches but the students don't listen, it's as if nothing has been accomplished.

Case Discussion Method

The key to this method lies in starting the discussion with a case that has not been answered or requires judgment. The case can be presented on slides or even distributed as physical documents to the audience. Case discussions are common in Harvard and many research institute classrooms. In graduate school, some cases are distributed in advance for the audience (students) to read, and there are specialized courses that teach how to lead case discussions and engage in debates from different perspectives. However, case discussions conducted in large-scale presentations are simplified, aiming to encourage the audience to find answers through clues and critical thinking within the challenging scenarios. The process involves answering and explaining the case, allowing the audience to further their learning. For example:

"If given a choice, would you let the train continue on its original track and hit five people or change tracks and hit a construction worker?" (Justice course at Harvard University - Professor Sandel, after presenting the case)

"Please identify the top 5 companies worth investing in from these financial statements at hand." (Super Numeracy Return Home 350-person large-scale lecture - Teacher MJ, distributing over ten financial reports)

"If you had the opportunity to present to the HR director of Foxconn, what key points should you emphasize? Why?" (The Art of Presenting - Speaker Fu, displaying six different options on the slides)

After presenting the case, it is common to facilitate a brief discussion among small groups. While individual reflection is also acceptable, the atmosphere and engagement significantly differ when engaging in group discussions. (Hence, group formation and discussion are important foundations for many advanced techniques in large-scale presentations.) There are various methods for presenting the answers, often using the aforementioned techniques. For example, Professor Sandel uses open-ended questions to gradually guide the audience into ethical dilemmas (question-answer method); Teacher MJ uses financial documents without company names, requiring participants to select the numbers of potential companies (select method); I, on the other hand, ask participants to identify key points on the slides and arrange them in order (combining select and arrangement methods). These methods can be used in combination with case discussions.

I believe that the ability to facilitate case discussions demonstrates the strength of a teacher, as it requires patience and skill to guide everyone in expressing their thoughts. These thoughts mostly align with the expectations of the teacher or speaker, and if any divergent ideas emerge, the teacher can quickly steer the discussion back on track. Although the discussion in the room is open-ended, it ultimately returns to the desired goals set by the teacher. The ability to summarize and draw conclusions from the discussion is also a testament to the teacher's expertise. Of course, the design of the topic, the management of the atmosphere, and even the level of the students (for example, if they haven't taken Super Numeracy, they may not understand the financial reports provided by Teacher MJ) all play crucial roles. It's challenging but still achievable (I'll cover this in the future). I consider the smooth operation of case discussions in large-scale presentations the ultimate mastery of such events!

Other Methods

Certainly, in addition to the aforementioned storytelling, raising hands, Q&A, multiple choice, multiple selection, arrangement, and case discussions, as well as the blending of different techniques, there are other methods that can be used in large-scale presentations. These include the use of videos (discussing or finding answers through video clips), pairing method (providing two different types of answers and asking the audience to match them, for example, matching drug types 1-4 or disease types A-D), and true/false method (using hand gestures or signs to indicate whether the given statement is correct or incorrect, a technique I learned from Teacher Fairy - Yu Huaijin). I believe there are many other excellent methods as well (feel free to share yours).

Do teachers or speakers put in so much effort just to create an energetic and lively atmosphere? To get the audience hyped up? Of course not! It's all about learning outcomes, which is our primary concern! I keep emphasizing that if you are already energetic or have extensive experience, and the audience will listen attentively regardless of what you say, then you may not need these interactive techniques! After all, even if the audience is not in the best state of mind, they will still listen attentively and applaud at the end of the speech! (Oops! Why did I think of President Xi Jinping...). But if you want to add some variety to your presentation and have the audience actively participate rather than passively listen, making them an integral part of the exciting speech, then perhaps these techniques can help you in designing interactive presentations and provide you with better reference directions.

Before concluding the article, I'd like to share a story about a brilliant friend. During our first joint presentation, he was very dissatisfied with his performance. He felt that he had said too much but the audience retained too little. He described the situation as "poor conversion rate" (I think he was being too hard on himself XD). The key is that after that presentation, he continuously evolved and constantly pondered how to optimize the "conversion rate" of knowledge in his speech by incorporating more interactive designs while maintaining his professionalism. He started using case studies, selection, ordering, emphasis techniques, and more. Now, his proficiency in large-scale presentations has left me in the dust! The improvement has been staggering! The point is that the audience not only "satisfies" with his speeches but also "snatches" tickets during ticket sales, and when tickets are sold out, they nearly cause "riots" (I guarantee it's not an exaggeration!).

The so-called techniques are different methods that can be analyzed, practiced, combined, and refined. Your knowledge and expertise are your core foundation, and others cannot help with that. It depends on your regular accumulation and efforts. However, techniques can be quickly acquired. Just try a few more times, learn one technique at a time, and become increasingly familiar with them. I hope you can achieve the same success as my brilliant friend and improve the conversion rate of your speeches! I also welcome you to share your positive results with me in the future!

Note 1: Completed in two days, today in Taichung > Hsinchu. Wrote 2,268 words in a taxi.

Note 2: The motivation and incentive mechanisms for audience participation are significant topics. I'll cover this in detail in the future.

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