Your Questions: How do you include reading material in a presentation?

Scott writes: I would sometimes like to have a group read and absorb supplementary materials. How do I work that into a presentation? How do I time for it?

This is an idea that will be of interest to presenters and trainers alike. When we consider bringing supplementary materials into a meeting or class, it is helpful to consider the following.

Reading ability and speed. Average readers read around 200-300 words per minute with a typical comprehension of 60%. College students can reach 450 words per minute, while those with a third-grade level might read 150 words per minute. But those are averages; you don't know how well or how fast your audience can read, and chances are some will read more slowly than others.  

Putting people on the spot. Some people will be slower readers, or may freeze up under pressure. Especially if you are asking people to read aloud, consider if English is their first or second language. Never call on someone to read out loud, especially when you don’t know them well. It’s always smarter to ask for a volunteer.

Reading assignments ahead of the meeting. You might find it more helpful to assign the reading ahead of the class or meeting. Some people will do the reading conscientiously; others may not. To get everyone on the same page, consider having table groups discuss the material so everyone gets the main ideas.  

Be selective. Instead of a long article, maybe you could provide a few paragraphs to read. Or create an executive summary. You might even highlight key sections that are important and let them read the rest after the class or meeting.

Break it down. Sometimes I take the reading material and print selections of it on cards, then distribute them to learners. Each person (or group) takes ownership of a small portion of the content, and either reads it or paraphrases it for the others. This works well when the content doesn’t have to be read in a linear fashion.

Offer choices. I think the main thing is to create a learning environment that feels safe. Make sure nobody is made to feel embarrassed or put on the spot. Be sure to invite them to read or discuss, don't demand they all participate.