Wednesday, 3 July 2013

5 presentation tips from spinning classes

Gym goers will have seen and, perhaps, taken part in spinning (sometimes called indoor cycling) classes. The lights are turned low, the music is turned up and you are taken through a range of exercises on a static bike such as sprints, jumps and hill climbs.

Taught well it is a great workout that burns a huge amount of calories, raises the heart rate and gets you fit quickly. Taught badly and it can be a frustrating hour.

With this in mind, as I spun my way through an OK (not great) class first thing this morning, I thought there are important lessons for anyone wanting to give a good presentation from spinning classes that are taught well.

1. Set out your journey at the beginning

Knowing what to expect from the next hour, whether on a spinning bike or sat in a lecture theatre, helps you to focus on the job at hand. When uncertainty exists it is natural for people's attention to wander. Eliminate any uncertainty by outlining what is to come in a way that gets people excited and motivated to learn and engage.

The worst thing a presenter can do is just jump into their content without setting it into any context. Think of a presentation as a story which will be revealed, just like a good spinning class is a journey about to be undertaken with hills, sprints and long flat roads. Making sure people know where they are in that story or on that journey throughout the session will also keep them motivated to stay engaged.

2. Use simple language

Using clear, simple language is always the best way to communicate. In a spinning class to communicate well speaking in short, sharp, sentences while breathing hard is necessary for the instructor. It is also useful for those attending the class who need to concentrate on the beat of the music, battle with their own fatigue as well as take instructions.

The best instructors - like good presenters - speak little but often meaning you have a running commentary of what is going on, keeping you focused. Often the pauses between instructions are as useful as the instructions themselves. When done well in this way the instruction almost becomes subliminal.

3. Show, don't just tell

World Champion and Tour de France legend Mark Cavendish teaching a spin class
While great instruction through plain, simple language helps to make a better spinning class or presentation so does showing not just telling.

A good spinning teacher will be dynamic in their movement meaning your eye is drawn to what they are doing which helps to illustrate and underline the verbal instruction they are giving. Often movement is exaggerated to make sure you get the message in the same way a good presenter will use strong images, films or a variety of content to help make an important point.    

4. Energy (and volume)

When you get out of bed to sit on a spinning bike you want to get as much out of that hour as possible. The same goes for the dreaded after lunch presentation slot.

If those attending either are greeted with energy, commitment, volume and range in instructions and a sense of enjoyment from the instructor or presenter, they are much more likely to be taken on that journey I talked about in point one.

5. Paint a picture with your words

Compare these two instructions:

-We will now climb for 6 minutes so turn up your dial (to make it harder to pedal)
-We are now heading up the mountain, it will get steeper as we climb the mountain, picture yourself moving further up the mountain with every pedal stroke you take, don't get left behind...COME ON!

Being able to visualise goals not only motivates you but makes the whole - sometimes painful - experience much more enjoyable.

It is the same with presentations. Finding ways to illustrate points in this way makes them relevant to the audience and, with complex arguments, easier to understand.

There are good and bad spinning classes as there are presentations. Next time you're planning a presentation think what makes a great spinning class - it might help you jump out of the pack.

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