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Ag talk: I gave my presentation, but did my farmers listen to me?

Ag talk: I gave my presentation, but did my farmers listen to me?
By Ricardo Costa and Janelle Stewart
Before the era of the internet and smartphones, there were only a few ways for producers to find reliable information about crop management, and going to field days and conferences was by far the best option to keep up to date with the new findings and technologies. Today, farmers have almost all of the information they need at their fingertips, so driving for a few hours to listen to a speaker is something that needs to be worth their time. Taking that into consideration, what can you do to engage with farmers? How do you give a presentation knowing your audience understood and appreciated your talk?
First of all, know your audience. Knowing your audience’s background will help you to tailor your talk to that specific group. You don’t need their names, but knowing who your audience is will help you figure out what topics will be more appealing to that group. It is not uncommon to hear farmers complaining about speakers that were speaking about topics that had little or no relevance to them, or using too many complex terms and forgetting to address the points farmers really care about.
Michigan State University Extension suggests these tips to know your audience:
  • Review registrations.
  • Take a short survey prior to the meeting.
  • Build in the presentation information by gathering questions.
Putting aside some time to prepare your presentation is essential. Farmers notice if a presenter is not prepared, and that can affect how much they will trust you and how many of them will ever return to listen to you again.
Indications of a prepared presenter:
  • Practice prior to the presentation.
  • Know the information without reading it.
  • Move words from slides to the notes section.
  • Utilize appropriate images, charts and graphics.
Indications of an unprepared presenter are slides with heavy text and reading directly from the screen.
Another thing to think about is how long your presentation should be. Some speakers believe they need to talk about everything they learned in a full year of research during a 50-minute talk. That is definitely not the case. It is better to focus on two to three subtopics and make sure the public will remember them after your speech.
In a nutshell, presentations should have:
  • An attention-getter.
  • A main topic.
  • Two to three subtopics.
  • A conclusion.
  • A call to action.
You speak, but so does your body. Body language and voice intonation need to be taken into consideration. It does not matter how much you know about your topic, no one will listen to you if you sound monotone. Make eye contact and use your body to help the engagement process. Jokes make every situation better, but use this technique only if you feel comfortable doing so.
Your job as a presenter is not only to deliver the information. You need to ensure your audience leaves knowing more from listening to you. In addition, you represent your employer as well as yourself. Your goal is to leave a good impression on your audience.
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