Operationalisation

The next phase involves giving concrete form to the ideas derived from anticipation. With regard to structure, advice manuals offer a range of models, often expressed in formulae. One example is Dall’s refinement of the “ARGU-Strukt” scheme developed by Hierhold (e.g., 2005), the pioneer of presentation training in the German-speaking world. Dall’s model (2009: 63-110) proceeds from an introduction based on intention, relevance and agenda to a close that incorporates essence and an appeal or action. For the argumentative body he offers numerous “building plans” [Bauplane], ranging from “problem - solution”, through “opportunities - benefits” to the classical five-stage dialectic. Content-related pre-structuring is also possible in ppt templates, which are made available for, inter alia, various business situations and needs on the Microsoft Office site and other slide creation and distribution sites (see Sections 4.1 and 7.2).

Such templates may offer inspiration but require flexible adaptation to the particular situation - should they be an option at all. The most reliable approach is to develop an individual design based on the specific requirements of intention, content and communicative setting. The approach is comparable to the hermeneutic circle (actually a spiral) of text interpretation, which regards context and background knowledge as drivers of the comprehension process (cf. Teichert 2005:13391344); in this case, though, it is to be applied to the process of production.

Presentation software provides for a working area (known as a “slide sorter”, “light table” or similar) where content elements can be assembled without predetermining their sequencing, thus allowing a structure to “emerge“. The decision on the mix of tools or materials (in particular: paper vs. electronic platforms) depends largely on individual tastes and preferences.

Furthermore, the sequential structure of contents must also allow for a factor of the utmost importance: the audience’s ability to concentrate, which will diminish gradually over the period of the presentation. This effect can be counteracted by providing for dramatic effects to be employed if and when the audience shows signs of losing attention. Hierhold calls these “attention getters” (2005: 375), while Hermann- Ruess and Ott have even developed a “highlights rhetoric” (2014: 126) strategically sprinkled with them. Alternatively, the presenter can react to waning audience interest by spontaneously modulating his/her voice (on this and further activation strategies, see Dall 2009: 354-363).

Also to be operationalized are the relative weightings of spoken elements with visual ones (mainly in the form of slides) and, as necessary, other material. These will be discussed in detail in Section 6. Yet, however important visual aspects may be, the crucial element of a presentation remains the presenter’s own style of delivery. That too will therefore be the subject of a separate section, in this case Section 5.

It is particularly vital at this stage to clarify what reserves of knowledge will be required when speaking live. Is it a question of routine, retrievable from memory at any time, which can be spontaneously cast into linguistic form - if necessary by using a mnemonic? Or is special care needed because every word counts and the content is complex enough to require frequent reference to notes? And on what medium are such aids to be provided (e.g., note pad, cards, computer screen, in special cases teleprompter or headset)?

Should it be planned to distribute supplementary material, the moment of distribution must be decided, bearing in mind the risk of distraction. Will it be helpful to make the presentation available in permanent form? If so, it is advisable to convert its content from a linear sequence of slides and speech to a hierarchically-structured overview text.

 
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