Presentation Ground Rules

I did a program session at a conference on October 30, 2010 and before I started the session, I realized that I needed to set some ground rules for the presentation. This is not something that I’ve always done and I think it really helped out with my presentation because the participants understood immediately that we were there to learn. I created these in the context of a presentation that discussed social justice, but I think they are applicable to any presentation.

The first ground rule was that the session is intended to be educational. We were all there to make learn something new together, and I emphasized that meant me as well. There is always a possibility that someone in the audience has some insight into whatever topic that I’m presenting that I haven’t heard yet.

The next was to think about the concepts rather than analyzing and attacking every detail within them. The “that’s not what we’re talking about” syndrome can seriously derail a conversation and do far more damage than good.

Being respectful is important. I focused on the attendees being respectful to each other. There is no need for name calling or swearing in an educational environment. If we got to that point, there probably would not be much learning going on any more.

Keeping the sensitive conversation in the room is also important as an attempt to help people feel comfortable sharing information that they may not otherwise share.

The last ground rule that I laid out was the idea of the “parking lot.” The parking lot is a technique that one of my professors uses to highlight an educational moment without interrupting the person who is sharing. The item that is put in the parking lot is written on the board and revisited later so that my professor can highlight the educational moment. It’s been enlightening throughout the course of the semester to see what we can learn in addition to what is already on the syllabus through the parking lot concept.

Some other ground rules that I plan to work in for later presentation is that people should respond to the person who spoke before them and validate what they said for better development of trust within the group. I also want to focus on the concept of the group being a community to further enhance the respect and trust aspects of my ground rules.

What ground rules do you use in your presentations? Is there anything that you’d add to mine?

Tell me your thoughts