A comprehensive study has been published showing the preferences by audiences of a person’s presentation skills. Based on the findings, it now possible to pinpoint the exact elements that make a speaker more (or less) effective, depending on the type of audience.
Characteristics of Effective Classroom Teachers as Identified by Students and Professionals: A Qualitative Study
Leila Jahangiri, D.M.D., M.M.Sc.; Thomas W. Mucciolo, B.B.A.
Journal of Dental Education, April 2008, Volume 72, Number 4, p 484-493
Linked article: Reprinted by permission of Journal of Dental Education, Volume 72, Number 4, April 2008.
© 2008 by the American Dental Education Association.
This study identified criteria for teacher quality preferences as perceived by current and past students. The findings also apply to any communication activity involving a speaker (presenter) and one or more listeners (audience). A two-question, open-ended survey, asking what qualities learners liked most and least in a teacher/presenter, was given to two groups: students and professionals.
A student learner is defined as one who requires information in order to participate in an activity. A professional learner is one who desires information on order to enhance the participation in an activity. The learner can be the same person, as in someone who attends a training program or hands-on workshop (student learner) versus someone who attends a seminar or conference presentation (professional learner). In each case the learning preferences (skills desired by the learner) are different.
In this study, a total of 300 subjects provided 2,295 written responses to the two-question survey. Descriptive words within the responses were coded and grouped according to similar relationships, resulting in the emergence of twenty-one skills, grouped into three major areas: personality, process, and performance.
Results showed that the two groups of learners appear to have different preferences in speaker characteristics. For student learners, the skills related to content design, content organization, and content development were at the forefront of their preferences. Professional learners overwhelmingly favored elements of speaker self-confidence, expertise and energy. Both groups highly valued expertise and speaking style.
These findings reveal that the same presentation (in both content and delivery) given to different groups of learners will yield different outcomes, based on audience preferences.
In addition, the research offers an opportunity to classify speakers according to the skills that appeal to specific groups for specific purposes. A presenter whose skills are better suited to a student learner, may not be as effective delivering a seminar to a group of professional learners. Perhaps such a speaker can be better utilized in a hands-on workshop/training venue, rather than in a general lecture.
The study was conducted at New York University College of Dentistry using the most readily accessible groups of students, faculty and healthcare professionals from the medical and dental communities. However, using indicators from the initial data in the study, and prior to the research publication, the authors (Leila Jahangiri and Tom Mucciolo) conducted similar studies using the same method (two-question survey) with a number of specific groups within organizations including: economists, sales consultants, technical writers, accountants, technical engineers, software programmers, and marketing managers; as well as with diverse groups across organizations, such as: politicians, CEOs, communication professionals, speechwriters, politicians, scientists, and lawyers.
In analyzing the responses from all of these other groups, the results were highly consistent with the published research findings, thereby increasing the confidence that this research has universal applications beyond the subjects studied.
To bring the research to life, the authors designed an instrument to measure the effectiveness of a speaker. This Skills Assessment is currently used to evaluate 80 independent elements in a presenter’s style to arrive at a measurement of the speaker’s effectiveness in relation to different audience types or learners (students, professionals and a mix of both). In the past year, the assessment tool was applied across diverse cultures, beyond the United States, by evaluating speakers in more than 15 countries (Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Italy, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Singapore, India, and Australia).
The authors of the study are currently collaborating on a new book, which will develop each of the 21 skill categories and be linked to interactive web-based tools and applications, for the express purpose of increasing the effectiveness of teachers, presenters and speakers.