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CPD: Plan, prepare, present

Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(04) LIJ, p.76

Quality continuing professional development presentations require extensive preparation.

Some continuing professional development (CPD) providers put their presentation together without referring to established practices of what makes a quality event and then sit back and hope it works.

Not surprisingly, most of the time it doesn’t.

However, there are guidelines to help providers and practitioners get the most out of a CPD activity.

The following is a list of points that practitioners should take into account when choosing a CPD event (and that providers should note for their presentations).


The title should clearly spell out what will be covered in the presentation. Misleading, catchy or provocative titles may work for some “products”, but rarely work for CPD.

The presenter

Qualifications are important. These qualifications could include whether the presenter is an LIV accredited specialist, what firm they work for, whether they have presented before and whether there are any publications attributed to them.

Evidence base

What legislation and cases will be used? Are these the most current? If the topic is contentious, what process has been used to check the content? For example, in such situations the LIV will have had people with expertise in the particular area check the material and validate the content and, if required, provide feedback to the presenter before the presentation.

Appropriateness of the content

Is the content pitched appropriately? Is it too trite, too sophisticated, too narrow or too general for the intended audience?

Target audience

Practitioners should note whether the content targets practitioners new to the profession, those wishing to renew their skills in a particular field, the experienced generalist or the accredited specialist. A good provider will ensure that practitioners know who is being targeted.

Aims of the presentation

Participants can expect the presenter to explain their intent with the presentation and to have a rationale as to why they are delivering this material at this time.

For example, it may be:

  • purpose – to update, to explore, to demonstrate, to outline etc.;
  • rationale – why this presentation is relevant at this time – is it because of new legislation, a new case, compliance, new political/social issues, external factors?; or
  • context – where does this presentation fit into the existing legal framework/social or business environment? Is a scene being set which will enable participants to link this material with their existing knowledge?

Structure of presentation

The presenter should have a planned structure. A 45-minute monologue is not the most effective way of engaging participants’ interest. Ideally, a one-hour presentation will have four distinct components – possibly background or scene setting, outline of the “new”, some case studies or possible implications, a section on how this might affect or have “change” implications for practitioners.


The presenter will have built into their presentation strategies for engaging with the participants. Few presenters can trade on their status only as a means of generating automatic participant interest. Most presenters have to plan how they will capture and hold interest. Some strategies regularly used are funny stories (presenters should check with colleagues that they are actually funny), jokes (again, checked – and nothing that is not politically correct), knowing some participants’ names so they can be addressed directly, checking they have meaningful examples or simply inviting a show of hands as to who agrees/disagrees.


There is nothing more embarrassing for a presenter than to have inadequate material – to run out well before the time allowed and have to ad lib. Almost as bad is having too much material and running out of time before getting to the crux of the issue. The material to be presented needs to be checked to ensure there is sufficient but not too much content for the time allocated.


The presenter needs to tie all the points together and summarise the presentation. Simply hoping participants will “get it” and make their own sense of the material is inadequate. Participants can expect that a summary will be structured into the presentation.


The final comments of the presenter need to conclude the material, offer some advice or direction about where participants might find further information (website, book, manual) and possibly advise they will be available after the session.


A good provider will also ensure there is a chance for feedback and evaluation from participants. Some presenters are nervous about evaluations but most welcome an honest assessment of their presentation and see it as feedback which will help them to continually improve their delivery. There are many different ways of running an evaluation – from simple to complex.

Some presenters simply ask participants to raise their hands in response to five or six questions, e.g. who thinks they will be able to include “xxxx” into their practice in the next three weeks? Many groups hand out written sheets for completion and unless you are evaluating a wedding, it is best to focus on the content and delivery of the presentation (rather than the food, curtains or shoes the presenter was wearing) with your comments.

Online evaluations are often completed after some time has elapsed, affording participants time to thoroughly reflect on the presentation.


One of the most important things for a CPD participant to take into account is the organisation of the event. Did it start on time, finish on time, was the conference room adequate – e.g. was there noise outside, noise inside, poor lighting or inappropriate seating? An equipment failure, an inability to find the power-point or to use the microphone also detracts from the event.

The planning of a quality education activity will take all the above points into consideration and participants should expect that these points are all met.

JULIE McCORMACK is LIV Professional Development general manager. For further information on CPD,


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