RTD TIG Week: Tying it Together with Transitions by Julie Bronder Mason

Julie Bronder Mason

My name is Julie Bronder Mason, Ph.D., and I am the Deputy Director of the Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications at the National Institute of Mental Health.  I have spent a fair number of years conducting, overseeing, advising, and presenting on program evaluations, and the tips I will share stem from a corpus of professional presentation coaching; AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i); communications and leadership development courses; and practice, experience, and observation.

Lesson Learned: Give thought to your (often neglected) transitions!

Often, presenters place primary emphasis on slide content and design, and give little (or no) thought to transitions within and between those striking slides!  So how can you polish your evaluation presentation and provide a seamless flow?

Hot Tip # 1: Use the logic model as a unifying thread

Just as your logic model is the guiding light for your evaluation, consider using it as the cornerstone for your presentation.  Reveal the elements in tandem, fading away components you have already discussed or have not yet reached.  Return to the logic model as a reminder throughout the talk.  For instance, “we just highlighted the input variables, and before diving into the specifics (fade to gray), let’s discuss program activities (emphasize) and how we will collect our data.”

Hot Tip # 2: Reflect on within-slide transitions

If you must use a bulleted list in your slides, think about the relationship between those list items. Why did you group them together in the first place?  Imagine a slide where you will be describing data you are collecting on biomedical research training program outcomes.  Your slide may have the following three bullets: early-stage investigators, co-authorship networks, and subsequent publications. You could tick those outcomes off in list fashion, (e.g., “bread, butter, cheese”) or you could appeal to your audience with the linkage between those items (“aha, we’re making grilled cheese”)!  Rather than discuss each bullet separately, define how they interlock. “We’re collecting data on outcomes from our training program that include examining how many new early-stage investigators have emerged, because expansion of this population will be an indicator of workforce sustainability.  How well this workforce collaborates, as estimated by development of co-authorship networks, is key to understanding information dissemination…” and so forth!

Hot Tip # 3: Plan (and practice) between-slide transitions

Even more crucial than the within-slide transition is the between-slide transition.  Here again, a little planning can reap large gains.  In the notes section of your slides, jot down a sentence or two to connect your evaluation thoughts from one slide to the next.  Your goal is to facilitate an introduction to the next slide and speak to it before advancing.  Resist the urge to click ahead and pause dazed, wondering how you landed on that next slide.  And practice those transitions!  Be familiar enough with the transition material so you can convey it in a variety of ways without appearing rehearsed.

Tips like the above three are simple to implement and can showcase you as a seasoned presenter!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Research, Technology and Development (RTD) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Research, Technology and Development Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our RTD TIG members. 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 aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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