Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Seth Czarnecki is the Social Media Manager for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email him: seth.czarnecki45@gmail.com

We’ve all been through it. A presenter with a Powerpoint (maybe a Prezi, if they’re cool) gets in front of a room and speaks for forty-minutes without taking a breath. You have some ideas about the topic but are forced to keep them to yourself as the presenter drones on. By the time the ‘Questions?’ slide appears, the presenter’s time is up.

We teachers have found ourselves in this position when we were in school, and oftentimes, we still do during faculty meetings and professional development workshops. For you students, listening to an unengaging presentation is likely something with which you are all too familiar.

When crafting your presentation, consider the needs of the audience. As writing tutors, you like to talk and are more comfortable when doing so. You operate best in the noise of the writing center. So rather than monopolize the time, engage your fellow tutors and bring them into the presentation with a few simple techniques.

  1. Engage with a question. As tutors, you know the value of a question. A good question can lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go while inviting the writer to participate. The same can be true of a presentation. By leading with an engaging question (about your topic, of course), you communicate that the audience matters—and they do. Once you’ve fielded answers, you can build off of and refer back to audience insight throughout your presentation.

  2. Use a poll. Audience participation is hard, especially when they may not know the people around them. To get feedback without having to engage in the question-wait-hope for an answer model, unleash the power of technology. There are a variety of online tools (PollEverywhere, Participoll, and others) to poll your audience on questions relevant to your topic. Hear what the audience has to say without having to surrender the time to hear them say it.

  3. Get ‘em moving. Many of your audience members will have just arrived from lengthy bus rides. After sitting for an extended time, they may be ready to move. Harness this energy by building in opportunities for them to get out of their seats. You can adapt several teaching strategies, such as the “take a stand” technique or the “stand-up, sit-down” game, to incorporate movement.

As you begin designing your presentation, consider your audience and embrace the collaborative power of the tutoring session. Doing so will make your work that much more memorable.

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