Mike Bogle’s reflection on his presentation skills – http://techticker.net/2009/08/27/self-assessment-of-my-presentation-skills/ – strikes a chord with me. I always unpick my ‘performance’ in detail after a presentation or a course, either online or offline – but I tend not to do it in public as Mike has done. Through a long career which has involved being interviewed, seeking promotion etc., I am still very cautious about who I reveal my weaknesses to. I think they are probably evident enough without having to point them out to people and I’m not as brave as Mike!
But Mike’s post has reminded me that since I have been working almost entirely online for about 5 years now, I find face-to-face work increasingly difficult. I spent many years teaching face-to-face and have done loads of presentations in the past. I used to do them so frequently that I never thought twice about them. These days I scarcely ever do face-to-face presentations, so it could be that I have simply forgotten how to do them – but I don’t think it is that. I think it’s much more that through working online, my whole approach to teaching and learning has changed. Like Mike, I don’t want to be the ‘sage on the stage’. I strongly believe that learners can learn as much from each other as they can from a ‘teacher’ and that part of a teacher’s role is to ‘set the scene’, so that this is possible.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to run a short face-to-face course and decided to try out taking my online approach into the face-to-face environment; it wasn’t 100% successful. I didn’t use any powerpoint, or a whiteboard (i.e. any form of presentation), but structured the session around a series of questions which I used as starting points for discussion. This is how I work online. Whilst the course participants engaged with the discussion that the questions stimulated, it was not the approach they expected and I could see that they weren’t completely comfortable with it. They were expecting something more from me, rather than being expected to create knowledge between us according to the needs of that group at that time.
This might sound as if all I did to prepare for that session was list a few questions. That is not so. I probably did more preparation for the course than I would normally, because I was not sure which direction it would take. But what I found really interesting and a bit unnerving was that it takes more than a short course to change people’s attitudes to what might be expected of a teacher or a course, and that what can work wonderfully well online, might not transfer into the face-to-face situation.
I realise that there are people who seem to be equally effective on and offline, but I wonder if a good face-to-face ‘presenter’ also ‘presents’ when working online, and if a good online ‘facilitator’ is also a ‘facilitator’ rather than a ‘presenter’ when working face-to-face. Of course it won’t be as cut and dried as this, but I do wonder whether there is a tension between these two ways of working.