You’ve just returned to your workplace after attending a professional development program , and you’re eager to implement what you’ve learned into your daily work life.
But that doesn’t have to be where it ends — you can share your learnings with others to help enhance their skills, too. There’s one added step after a professional development program that many may not consider: Presenting what you learned at that training session to your colleagues.
Not only can this help you better articulate what you learned, but your actionable takeaways can elevate your colleagues and improve your workplace.
“Upon returning to your organization one feels empowered to share the new knowledge and skills acquired during the experience,” says Jill Abruzese Slye, instructor of “Communication Strategies: Presenting with Impact” at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education. “This also fosters relationship building and practicing effective communication.”
If you’re wondering why it’s important to present what you learned at a professional development program and how to do so effectively through a great presentation, here’s where to start.
Why Presenting What You Learned at a Professional Development Program is Important
Professional development programs are a great opportunity to improve your current skills or learn new ones, and come in many forms and topics. These skills can help you do your work more efficiently, better serve customers, clients, or stakeholders, and potentially set you up for future promotion.Because a professional development program provides value to you and your workplace, take the opportunity to tell your team about what you learned so they can reap that value as well.
How to Prepare During Your Program
Following these steps will not only help you remember and apply what you learned, but you’ll also have a list of talking points and resources ready to go for your presentation.
- Take notes during your program
- Take pictures or screenshots of any relevant presenter slides
- At the end of your program, review your notes and highlight key takeaways
- Create a list of action items from those key takeaways
- Note quotes, best practices, or other actionable advice the instructor gave
- Make a list of tools or resources suggested by the instructor
Prepare With 6 Elements of a Great Presentation
When you return to your workplace from your professional development program, you may be asked to present, or you can offer to present. Whatever the format — a large presentation to staff or a small overview at your team meeting — use your notes and prep work to prepare your presentation. Be mindful of the following elements:
1. Keep your audience in mind
“It is always important to be well organized and consider your audience’s thoughts, feelings, or ideas about what you are going to present,” Slye explains. “Especially when introducing new ideas within an organization or team, it is important to consider the ‘what’s in it for them.’ If you are persuading your colleagues to jump in and make changes, getting a gauge on where they stand can be helpful in your approach to implement change.”
2. Start with an overview of the program and its topics
Give a summary of the professional development program you went to, who the instructor was, and where it was held to lay the groundwork for your audience.
3. Explain why you wanted to attend
Tell your audience the reason for enrolling in the program and consider what need or problem you were looking to solve with that particular training. This can include learning a new skill to expand your role or addressing a gap in your knowledge.
4. Provide insights and actionable takeaways from the program
Your presentation should focus on the three to five most important takeaways you learned, as well as how you can apply those takeaways to your daily work life. These key points will be what your audience takes away with them and puts into action in their work.
5. Use storytelling and examples from the program
If there were stories or examples that clarified a point or visualized an action or takeaway, retell it to your audience. For example, if you went to a training that utilized a story from the Hero’s Journey that connected the dots for you, share that story with your team, too.
6. Create a great PowerPoint
Don’t just plan what you’ll communicate, but how you’ll communicate it. Create a PowerPoint to show during your talk. Make one slide per key takeaway, add any visuals that may help your audience understand the concepts better. Don’t add too many words — keep it simple and easily digestible!
4 Things to Avoid During a Presentation
Now that you’ve prepared for your presentation and have included the key elements you need, here’s what to avoid:
1. Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume everyone is going to be as enthusiastic for change as you are,” advises Slye. “I suggest taking one or two ideas, or thoughts and presenting them, rather than come in with a list that could be overwhelming to your audience.”
2. Avoid busy slides
As you compile your PowerPoint, avoid listing all your talking points on the slide. This may be helpful to you, but it can be distracting to your audience as they try to read all of your points instead of listening to you. Instead, put one key takeaway or action item on one slide, and let your speech tell the story.
3. Avoid sharing everything
It takes a bit of skill to extract key takeaways from something that we learned. You may be tempted to explain every bit of your training — including what the location was like, who you ran into, or what was served for lunch — but instead, focus on three to five items you learned from that training. This will be more interesting and actionable for your audience.
4. Avoid going over time
You may have a lot of great content to present. But if you’re only allotted five or 10 minutes at a staff meeting, make sure you prepare your content to fit in the time allotted.
Preparing for Presenting Virtually vs. In Person
Much of the same prep work will apply whether you’re presenting in person or through a virtual setting. However, engagement and energy will be different in front of a virtual audience.
In person, you can make eye contact, feel the energy of your audience, and see their reactions as you present. With a virtual audience, it’s difficult to make eye contact or read their energy, and you may even be presenting to a blank screen. Because of the energy shift, you may not feel as enthused or excited while presenting, but know that despite the energy of the Zoom room, your content can still help others apply new ideas and best practices to their work.
To prepare for a virtual presentation, make sure that your technology works, your video and microphone are clear, and you have a non-distracting background behind you. If possible, present in an area that absorbs sound — a room with a rug and lots of furniture if presenting from home — so your voice won’t echo. Know ahead of time how to share a presentation through the video conferencing tool you’re using, and decide if you’ll encourage listeners to ask questions in the chat.
Presentation Tips and Best Practices
Finally, don’t forget to employ public speaking best practices.
“Use a well-structured outline, consider the thoughts, feelings, or ideas of your audience, and tap into your sense of success and accomplishment when sharing this information,” says Slye. “For example, use your non-verbal communication skills to exude confidence while also listening to your audience’s response.”
Other best practices include:
- Making eye contact with your audience
- Having a confident stance and a firm, clear voice, which will help build your credibility
- Slowing down your talking speed and enunciating clearly
- Using your note cards as “shorthand reminders,” not as a script
- Practicing your presentation — remember, nervousness is normal!
- Taking questions at the end from your audience
- Offering to send the slides to your audience so they can use them as a resource
Next Steps: Better Presenting with “Communication Strategies”
A professional development program can be a great opportunity for professional growth and teach you something valuable you can pass along to your colleagues. If you’re looking for more ways to grow professionally and become a better presenter, “Communication Strategies: Presenting with Impact” can give you the tools and practice to do just that.
For business professionals at all levels of experience, this two-day on-campus program will enhance your communication skills through oral presentations and small group activities. You’ll walk away knowing the guiding principles of effective presentations, new confidence in your presenting abilities, and more insight into your personal leadership and communication style.
If you’re ready to take the next step in growing your communication and presentation skills, register today.