Wednesday 16 September 2009

The how not the why

What would you expect a class titled Introductory Statistics to teach you? You’d expect exactly what the title says, that is, basic stats; you wouldn’t expect Excel tutorials. Not just Excel tutorials, at any rate. 

What would you expect in a class on the basics of presentations? How to do slides, throw your voice, move your hands, etc.

But that’s the how, not the why. Why make presentations, considering most presentations are so badly made and badly received? How else can one inform and persuade? What really happens when we speak? What are the latest theories on face-to-face communication?

What really matters? Who’s presenting? Who he’s presenting to? What he’s presenting?

How much does how matter?

None of these need be as obvious as it seems at first glance. But when each of these are intelligently discussed, the learners may get a sound foundation that’d help them think through their presentations.

I believe, in the end, it boils down to this:

  • If you know your subject, you would be able to speak about it; it doesn’t matter if you stammer or shutter or wear the wrong tie. People's self-interest in getting your expertise will more than make up for any drawback you may have. 
  • On the other hand, if you don’t know your subject, the  rules and tricks can’t save you. Even if you are able to sweep your audience off its feet with histrionics, that would serve no purpose… because you couldn’t have told them anything useful… because you don’t know much yourself.

So, why bother about presentation skills? Just learn the subject.

1 comment:

Arya Chatterjee said...

I was thinking the other day that teachers are increasingly teaching from a presentation rather than from the black/green/white board. I can say that the reason you need a board to tech any mathematics based subject (i.e. that use math symbols to present logic) becuase you derive things in class. Derivations need "leaps in logic" which need the student to concentrate very hard on the subject material. By writing the stuff down, the Professor ensures that he is going at just the right speed that the students can keep up with. Also you make sure that there are no "leaps" that are not seen since you have to do all the steps yourself. I have written papers in which I have derived an equation which if I had included all the steps, would have taken 10 pages. Instead I used the old "it can be shown that we get this :". Thats fair in a paper, not in the class room.