Microsoft Evangelism Academy – Day 1

Thrown straight out of our comfort zones and straight into the world of critical feedback and strict self-analysis, today at Microsoft’s offices in Melbourne the eight members of the newly-formed Microsoft Evangelism Academy (including yours truly) had their horizons thoroughly and expertly expanded.  Sound painful?  Well it was…just a bit.

So what is the Microsoft Evangelism Academy?  The brainchild of the Microsoft Australia DPE team (particularly Andrew Coates and Sarah Vaughan), this project is taking eight non-Microsoft IT professionals and developers and providing some intense training to improve our presentation skills.  The training is being run by NRG Solutions (big shout-out to Steve and Mel) who will be following up on our progress throughout 2011 in the lead-up to the ultimate event – presenting a session at Microsoft TechEd Australia 2011 on the Gold Coast.

It’s not just a fabulous opportunity for us all to improve our skills – Microsoft wants us to be even more active in the IT community, promoting technology, engaging colleagues and businesses, providing solutions and presenting on all the latest and greatest.

Australia is a big place, and it’s not always easy to get the techie love out to the people who need it most, but in a short space of time there will be a new influx of up-skilled presenters ready to share the joy hitting the user groups, blogs, Twitter and all your other favourite vectors of communication :-)

So who’s involved?  Apart from myself:

  • Jeremy Thake (Perth) – @jthake
  • Jake Ginnivan (Perth) – @JakeGinnivan
  • John O’Brien (QLD) – @soulsolutions
  • Bronwen Zande (QLD) – @BronwenZ
  • Steven Nagy – (Brisbane) – @snagy
  • Mark Rhodes (Brisbane) – @mrhodes
  • Chris Walsh (Melbourne) – @ChrisWalshie

We have self-branded ourselves as EvangelOz, and you can follow the #EvangelOz hashtag on Twitter.

Day 1 concentrated strongly on the physical art of presenting:

  • Using your allocated presenting space wisely – making use of “space anchoring” to tie concepts to physical locations in the room, which serves to give your audience visual cues and memory hints to give your content more impact and permanence
  • Eye contact – how and why eye contact is used, why it’s dangerous to over-use it and what the likely outcomes are when it’s under-utilised
  • Posture and movement – a good presenter is in charge of their physical presence, knows when to use movement and how to prevent tics and absent-minded idiosyncrasies which only serve as distractions
  • Voice – how to be more aware of the effect your voice is having on your audience, how to modulate your tone accordingly and how to avoid situations which can negatively impact your ability to speak clearly (the copious consumption of cold’n’flu medication was advocated…in the appropriate situation, of course)
  • Content – just being on top of your content technically isn’t enough. Rather, a good presenter can change the tone and complexity of the same content to suit a variety of audiences, and is familiar enough with the actual content (not just the technology) to be able to deal with setbacks, mishaps and difficult audience members without having the presentation derailed

Of course, these concepts will be familiar to anyone who has done presentation training, but we also backed up the theory with plenty of practical sessions (and LOTS of feedback, which thankfully wasn’t too quick-cuttingly honest).  Here are my efforts:

Video 1 – 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Me (And One Of Them Isn’t True)

With a couple of minutes’ warning we were asked to present on the topic “3 things you didn’t know about me, and one of them isn’t true”. Here’s my effort.

Video 2 – 3 Tips On Being A Better Presenter

After some morning sessions and loads of information on the physical art of presenting, we were asked to put what we’d learnt into practise. Looking back, something I need to learn is to not step out of the recording range of a fixed camera :-) D’oh. But apart from that, it COULD have been worse.

Video 3 – Day 1 Summary

We each had to give a quick wrap-up of the top 3 things we took from the day’s sessions, and the most important thing which we want to work on.

That’s it for Day 1 – more to come over the next couple of days, and much, much more into 2011!

About the Author: James Bannan

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