As presenters, research says that an audience will develop an impression of us within 15 seconds. If we’re giving a presentation and fail to have a great opening, people will basically tune us out. We are asked to present all the time in libraries to stakeholders, governing bodies, in programs, and to one another.
On today’s show, I speak with Victor Baeza, Graduate Initiatives and Engagement Coordinator and Business Librarian at Oklahoma State University. He shares excellent ways to warm-up your audience to ensure successful presentations, something we all can use.
This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Las Vegas, Nevada; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Emporia and Overland Park, Kansas.
This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.
As presenters, research says that an audience will develop an impression of us within fifteen seconds. If we are giving a presentation and fail to have a great opening, people will basically tune us out. We are asked to present all the time in libraries to stakeholders, governing bodies, in programs, and to one another.
On today’s show I speak with Victor Baeza, Graduate Initiatives and Engagement Coordinator and Business Librarian at Oklahoma State University. He shares excellent ways to warm-up your audience to ensure successful presentations, something we all can use. Enjoy the show.
Victor, welcome to the show.
Thank you, glad to be here.
Question #1: I got to see you do a presentation at a regional library conference, and you talked about presentation warm-ups and how it is so important to get your audience engaged before you start delivering your content. So, why is this important? 01:37
Getting your audience engaged before you deliver your content can be even more important, in some cases, than during your presentation. When I first started researching the idea of warm-ups I quickly realized that there wasn’t much information out there in the academic setting as far as warm-ups in the educational setting. Most of what I found was involved with television shows, or comedy clubs, or concerts where you have the opening act. If you just look for information on audience engagement then there’s an incredible amount of research done on the importance of engaging your audience during your presentation.
When you apply that research to a warm-up, that five to ten minutes before your presentation, or work-shop, or meeting really, it applies to all. Then in general, I found that engaged audiences are more likely to trust you and your message.
If you spend that five minutes before your presentation standing around, maybe talking to a co-presenter, or playing on your phone, then you’re basically inviting your audience to do the same thing. You basically lost them before you’ve even begun. Then you end up spending the first five to ten minutes of your session getting them back.
Now, I don’t want to stereotype most presenters, or librarians, but in my experience they are usually pressed for time. They typically over prepare and generally try to cover way too much information in the time that’s given. Especially if we’re excited about our topic, oh, we can just go on, and on, and on.
So whether it’s a fifty minute class presentation, or an hour-long program for the public, time is precious. So, I’m promoting the idea of taking those five to ten minutes at the beginning of a presentation back by trying to engage the audience by doing a warm-up in the time just prior to the official start.
Question #2: So, what is a good warm-up? 03:28
That’s complex, because a good warm-up is determined by what you need, or what your intention is. There’s a lot of elements to a good warm-up. You can use a warm-up to grab attention, to help keep that attention, to use it. And then finally, you can convert that attention to have the audience do—whether it’s more participation, whether it’s thinking about your topic, or even if it’s just to hold their attention so you can keep it throughout the presentation.
You can use it as an activity before the main act to get the audience into the appropriate mood, depending on whatever your topic is. You can make the audience feel integral to the event. You can encourage interaction. And by that, you can have the audience feel like they’re important. Whatever they say is important to you. Just as what you say should be important to them.
You can use it as a strategy to let them know that we’re all trying to learn from each other. I tend to call those discovery sessions where we’re all learning from each other. Everyone has an equal voice and we’re all just talking about the topic.
Question #3: Those sound good. So, what can and can’t a warm-up do? 04:39
There are a lot of different things. One is it can start your audience thinking about your topic, as I mentioned a little while ago. You’re avoiding that cold start. Your presentation’s supposed to start at two and right at two you say, Hello everyone, and then you just try and get them involved.
You can use it to discover what the audience hopes to get from your session, or what they may think your session is going to be about. This is something I did at the presentation you were at. It’s one of my favorite tools to use, an online tool that will create a word cloud. It’s an online polling system.
I asked at the session you were at, What words come to mind when you think of a warm-up? It creates this word cloud as more people use the same words and it will put all the words up on the screen. The bigger words that showed up on the screen that day were, engaging, energy, attention. And, that was basically what I was going after. That helped me out.
Then I noticed some other words that were kind of equal in size were jokes, laughter, comedy, or comedian, and icebreaker. That really helped me figure out that, oh, my audience, a lot of people think that I’m talking about doing a comedy set before your presentation. Which really wasn’t what my plan was. Then also some words that popped in there to let me know that there were some not hostile, but people who were kind of dubious, or not sure about my topic because some words that popped up were bad, risky, lame, groans, and then a big one was resistance.
By using that online poll by that word cloud developer, it told me before my presentation that I had people in the audience that weren’t quite in with my topic, and that there was some misunderstanding about what my topic was going to be.
You can also use the warm-up to develop a personal connection with your audience members, as I mentioned before. You can engage them. You can ask them questions. You can survey them, which helps both the audience and the presenter get into the pattern of the presentation.
You can uncover stories that support or illustrate your main idea. You may get examples from people in the audience, Oh, I had this happen to me at work. Then you can use that. Incorporate it as you get to that point within your presentation.
Now as far as what a good warm-up cannot do, as I mentioned in the presentation, it cannot make you a superhero. It can’t make you into something you’re not. If you’re not a comedian, if you’re not good at telling jokes, oh, don’t try and tell jokes, because you’ll just bomb.
Comedians who do it for a living don’t always succeed. That’s something you have to be careful of. If you’re someone who’s not comfortable interacting with people one-on-one then you find other ways and tools that you can do to engage your audience.
Question #4: Well, I thought you did a great job at the presentation I was at. You talked about being true to yourself. What is this all about? 07:54
What I was just saying, you really need to know what you can and can’t do, or what you’re comfortable and not comfortable doing. If you are very shy, or you’re not someone comfortable in just starting a conversation with someone from scratch, then you may use slides or to do something up on the screen like a poll. You can put a joke on a slide and put that up on the screen, if you’re not that good at telling jokes yourself.
Being true to yourself is that you also need to be truly interested in what it is you’re doing and what you’re trying to share. If you ask a question as part of your warm-up then you better cover that question in your presentation. Or, when they give you an answer you build on that when you talk to them about it. You just don’t move on to the next person and ask the same question.
People can spot really quickly that you’re just going through a little formula, you’re not actually interested in what you’re asking.
Question #5: That seems really important. We each have our own style. I mean, there are some of us who are more introverted, some who are more extraverted, some are funny, some are serious. How do presenters find their own style? 09:03
It’s back to being true to yourself and being honest with yourself. If you like to talk, as I mentioned, then talk. If you feel awkward initiating conversations, then you develop ways to overcome that. Again, you can do the slide show. You can do polls. You can hand things out to your audience members.
If you’re really nervous before a presentation or before a meeting, and you have some slides that you have up—a friend of mine, what he does, he sits in the audience before the presentation and watches the same pre-presentation slideshow that they’re sitting there watching.
There’s another co-worker, she has a hard time with that opening up a conversation with someone. So what she does is, as people come in and they sit down, she takes that moment to go and hand everybody a handout, one-on-one, so she can ask them what program they’re in, what year of school they’re in, or what department they’re in. That’s her way of getting past that something she knows she’s not good at, which is starting a conversation.
More formally, you can find out your style if you do what I call a debrief after a presentation. Or, you can have someone else take notes during your presentation. But, after I present I like to sit down and I write down what worked for me, what didn’t work.
Oh, I tried to be funny here but that didn’t really work well for me. Or, This conversation that I had with that person worked really well, it really helped and got everybody involved. Those notes helped me later refine my presentation and how I present.
Question #6: And as you mentioned, each audience is different. You did the word cloud ahead of our presentation that I saw, so that gave you a clue where the audience was at as you began your talk. How do we know and present best to given audiences? 11:04
Well, there are four questions I tend to ask. And that’s, Who’s in the audience? If I’m going to a conference these are typically going to be colleagues and they’re probably people who have an interest in what it is I’m going to talk about, so they’re more of a friendly audience.
That goes with, Why are they coming to my presentation? At a conference they’re there voluntarily, usually. They’re there because they’re really interested in the topic, whereas when I’m on campus and I’m working with a group of undergraduates in a class, they’re required to be there. They may not be as interested in the topic that I’m going to discuss with them so I’m going to have to overcome that. It helps me know what my audience is there for.
What they already know is really helpful as well. I can do that in the conversation prior to the presentation or by doing an online poll where they can use their cellphones, or their laptops to answer questions so I’ll have a better idea of what it is they do know, or what they may be confused about. That’s what I use the word cloud for.
Question #7: This is all really good. So, once we’ve got all that, how do we engage our audience? 12:19
Again, it really just depends on the person and what they feel comfortable doing. Myself, as I started to work on this topic or started changing how I was doing things, I looked at different areas for motivation for some ideas. Like the movie theatre. I was sitting down before a movie. When you’re really early they have a slideshow usually up on the screen that will have the movie questions, trivia questions. I noticed a lot of people were actually paying attention to those. I thought, Well, you know PowerPoint allows me to do a slideshow on a timer just prior to my presentation. I can just put these extra slides in there and let that happen.
When you go to a large program, a big speaker series, you’ll typically hear music playing in the background. It’s not overwhelming, well it depends on what type of speaker you have. But, that music will typically, if you pay attention to it, mean something. Like the title might be associated with the topic of the speaker. It sort of gets your interest that way.
Then something I like to talk about is that being in the hotel, the concierge. They know everything that needs to be known for whatever’s going on there. So, if I’m in a conference I find out where my room is that I’m going to present in. Then I figure out, Okay, where’s the closest restroom, where’s the closest exit, where’s the registration desk from where I’m at. Prior, as I’m talking to people different things come up in the conversation and I’ll, Oh, well, that’s over here. Oh, that’s over there. So, that helps.
Then there’s the, what I call, the technology based ways to engage my audience. These are things you can do during the presentation, but I tend to do it just prior, like using the poll, the word cloud. The slideshow. Sometimes, well actually every time, I feel conceited now saying this, but I always have my speaker bio slide up before my presentation so people can see who I am and what I’m doing. I sometimes put jokes up on the screen that are just not any joke, but a joke that has something to do with the topic I’m talking about. It might be a word joke, or just a cartoon that I found. Sometimes I put quotes up on the screen just to get people thinking about the topic before I actually get started.
Question #8: Anything else you’d like to share? 14:55
Yes, although the presentation you saw in New Mexico was about warming-up the audience before a workshop, the idea works well in any type of situation where you have people gathering, at a meeting, a presentation, a performance of some kind.
The warm-up can really be good for the speaker as well as the audience. If you’re someone who gets really nervous before a presentation and it takes you ten minutes to get over that nervousness, then you can take those informal, ten minutes prior to your official start time and work out those jitters. Then you can use the time when your presentation officially starts—you’re warmed up, you’re ready to go, you’re not nervous, you just have a much better start to your presentation.
Question #9: I can see how all of this makes it go a lot smoother once the presentation starts. Do you have a favorite book or resource you’d like to share about leadership, and why? 15:52
It’s almost two books. It’s the same authors. They are really business books. They’re strategy books. But, I adapted what they talk about, to what I do in libraries. The first one is from 2005 called, Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors are W. Chan Kim, and Renée Mauborgne. Then in 2017 they came out with Blue Ocean Shift. The concept of blue oceans is really about creating new markets for businesses. That’s the blue oceans, the clear, blue ocean water as opposed to competing in the red oceans. You can imagine what’s causing the ocean to be red where everyone is competing against each other in well developed markets.
Myself, as I read these books, I adapted it for looking at new things to do in the library and on campus as well. I recognized where other people are already doing this service. We have a limited amount of resources so I was trying to find those new markets, those new areas on campus where I could put my energy in and do better work.
Question #10: In closing, what does being a librarian mean to you, personally? 17:08
I think what it means the most to me is that it allowed me to continue to learn. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things. And, as with most librarians I suspect, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it on your podcasts, that they didn’t set out to be a librarian. I didn’t either. I planned on being in TV/movie production and I always liked doing research, but I didn’t always enjoy having to write a paper after the research.
As a librarian, I started working as a work-study in my undergraduate university library. From that time on I’ve been able to help people with their research, learn about their topic along with them and sometimes from them. But they were the ones who had to go off and write about their topic. They had to write their paper, their treatise, their dissertation.
Most of my colleagues are very similar so we often share with each other things we learned from students or faculty that we just helped. That energy, that environmental learning from each other, and just learning really keeps me looking forward to going to work each day.
Isn’t it great to be a librarian? I couldn’t agree more. It has been so great to have you on this show today, Victor. Thank you for sharing all this valuable information about presentation warm-up. It’s going to be helpful for so many of us.
Well, thanks for having me on. I think it’s something that can really help a lot of people.
I think so, too.
You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at https://libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.