How to Take the Boring Out of HR Presentations & Workshops

We’ve all sat through presentations on dull topics. We may have occasionally been the person giving the dull presentation from the front of the room. Because we give presentations on topics like meal break policy, performance management, and timekeeping policies, I believe this can occur frequently in the HR field. Making that material entertaining must be difficult, right? It needn’t be that way, though. 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

Nothing makes a presentation less effective than a presenter who spends the entire time reading from the page in front of them. I would have stayed at home and read the presentation on my own if I had wanted to watch it. Any presentation-related notes or slides should serve as a guide rather than a script. The less often you read directly from your notes, the more likely it is that you will engage your audience. If you practice before the presentation, you will get enough comfortable with the subject that you shouldn’t need to refer to the page all that much.

Create an outline for your notes so they serve as the framework for your presentation. You won’t be as likely to have your eyes fixed to the page if you don’t have complete phrases typed out. Instead of connecting with the words in front of you, you want to connect with your audience. Remember to keep an eye on the time as well. Keep your presentation brief and avoid rambling more than is necessary.

Incorporate examples & make it interactive

Do not confine yourself to only reading the policy or discussing the idea. Tell tales and give instances to support your arguments. At my first HR job, I started facilitating harassment training, but I just covered the fundamental definitions and utilized a worn-out, outdated film with examples that everyone had already seen. Why alter the way the business has always operated? But after two hours, I frequently questioned whether the audience had learned anything.

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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