Hello loyal readers! I’m Sheila B Robinson, AEA365’s Lead Curator, sometimes Saturday contributor, and avid conference-goer. Yep, I’m one of those people who would attend conferences every week if I could. I love connecting with other evaluators, learning new skills and approaches, presenting my work, and the overall experience of being in a space with people with common interests, insights, and innovations to share.
In my various roles as blog curator, coordinator of our Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i), and frequent proposal reviewer I hear a lot from conference goers about what they love and don’t love about the annual conference. And one of the things that comes up time and time again is this:
People want to hear more about HOW you evaluate than WHAT you evaluate.
A common complaint from audience members is that presenters spend too much time sharing details about their specific programs, and then gloss over their evaluation approaches and methods too quickly. It’s understandable. As evaluators, we get excited about our programs (whether we’re internal or external evaluators). We’re invested in the work. We want to tell our stories! But that’s not what our conference audiences need from us. Many come to hear about new evaluation approaches, learn new skills and gather ideas to apply in their own contexts. Knowing the long history of how your program has served its beneficiaries is nice, but doesn’t serve this purpose. Before you know it, your 15 or 20 or 45 minutes are up, and your audience is walking away disappointed. Don’t let this happen!
1.) Practice an “elevator speech” version of what your program is and does, and what role role is with it. Imagine getting on an elevator with someone you don’t know who asks who you work for and what you do. You now have about 30 seconds to explain so that the person walks away understanding.
2.) Create your presentation with a key message about your approach, methods, lesson learned, etc. and then only as much program information as your audience needs in order to understand your key message.
3.) Practice your presentation on people not familiar with the program and especially with people not familiar with evaluation. Ask them for feedback to gauge their understanding of your presentation. How much program information can you strip away and have them still be able to understand the approach or methods?
3.) Create other avenues of communication for those audience members who do wish to know more details about the program. Create a handout with websites, your contact information, etc. This doesn’t even have to be paper – it’s easy to create an online repository of resources, free website or shared document.
Rad Resources: Check out the collection of free downloadable guidance documents and videos available on our P2i Presentation Tools and Guidelines page. Start with the resources under “Message.”
Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.