How to Take the Boring Out of HR Presentations & Workshops

We have all sat in presentations on material that is boring. Sometimes we may have been the one at the front of the room delivering a boring presentation. I think this can happen a lot in HR because we present on things like meal break policies, performance management and timekeeping policies. It’s hard to make that stuff interesting, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to help take the boring out of your next HR presentation.

Avoid reading directly from the slides or your notes

There’s nothing worse in presentations than a presenter who spends the whole time reading directly from the page in front of them. If I wanted to watch such a presentation, I would have stayed home and read it on my own. Any notes or slides you have for your presentation should be a guide, not a script. The less you rely on reading directly from your notes, the more likely you will connect with your audience. When you put in time practicing before the presentation, you will become familiar enough with the material that you should not have to look down at the page very often.

Write your notes in outline format, so they provide a skeleton for your presentation. If you do not have full sentences written out, you will be less likely to have your eyes glued to the page. You want to connect with your audience, not with the words in front of you. And do not forget to keep an eye on time. Be concise and keep your presentation from going longer than necessary.

Incorporate examples & make it interactive

Do not limit yourself to simply reviewing the policy or going over the concept. Use stories and examples to illustrate your points. When I started leading harassment training at my first HR job, I stuck to going over the basic definitions of harassment and used a tired, old video showing examples that people had seen before. That’s how the company had always done it, so why change? But at the end of two hours, I often wondered if the audience gained anything from the presentation.

Fast forward a few years to my next HR job, where I had a boss who told me to get creative and design my own harassment presentation. Because harassment training for supervisors is mandatory for California employers every two years, many attendees at my training knew the basics, but it was clear from the types of complaints we investigated that managers did not always know how to recognize the the types of harassment that occurred at the company. My training provided a refresher of the important definitions, but the majority of the training was designed around examples that I pulled from my own HR experience. I changed any confidential information, and sprinkled scenarios throughout the training. When I got to a scenario, I would pause and make attendees discuss the scenario in small groups while I circulated around the room. After the small group discussions, we would talk about it as a large group. The style of the presentation kept people from turning into passive learners. They had to become active, and the small group discussion were perfect for those who did not feel comfortable speaking in front of the whole group.

Don’t be afraid to put a bit of yourself into the presentation. For me, this means making pop culture references. Yes, just as I managed to use an example from Downton Abbey to illustrate a point in a blog post,  I am the presenter who used Doctor Who to explain a shoplifting concept in the new employee orientation at my last job.

Bringing interactivity to online presentations

I have recently started presenting online. After years of presenting in front of a live audience, it has been a challenging transition. In an online presentation, you are giving your presentation to a computer screen without the benefit of seeing the audience. You can’t always tell if they are bored, getting distracted by their phones or taking a nap.

I am still a bit of a novice in the online venue, but I have found that many of the same tips for live presentations apply to online presentations. This includes not reading directly from the page, incorporating examples and adding in some interactivity. This may vary depending on the size of your audience.

Insert poll questions for larger audiences, and add pauses for question & answer in smaller group presentations. Most online presentation software will include the option for attendees to type in questions. It can be helpful to have a moderator monitor questions and read them for you to answer. You can also solicit questions from your audience in advance, which allows you to incorporate their examples in your presentation.

What do you do to keep your HR presentations interesting?

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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