I usually find it ironic that students who complain about how boring their teachers are perform no differently when given the chance to teach or present in a classroom. It’s more difficult, or it takes more work, than they realize. Often students don’t do anything more than read hastily-organized thoughts from either from a paper or PowerPoint.
So, how can you improve your presentations? What do teachers look for and what connects well with fellow students? Follow these 8 steps and improve your presentations and get better grades.
- Don’t read – present. Think of the presentation less as communicating information and more as either an inspirational speech or well-crafted argument. Don’t just appeal to their thinking, make them feel something about your topic. Treat it as you would a blog post that you knew everyone was going to read.
- Distill – don’t pour. This is the biggest problem for most presentations, and a sure sign of procrastination and poor preparation – and it will affect your grade. You have to cut down your material. Teachers tire of students just reading through a book chapter and hitting the main points as they turn the pages. Or students just reading from PowerPoint screens, words that we can read faster than they’re spoken. Don’t do that. Read the chapter, pull out the author’s main points and then rework those into a solid outline.
- Develop a visual analogy. This is going to be my new mantra in seminars on teaching. In fact, I may advocate bring flannelgraph back. I’m joking on that. Maybe. However, I AM convinced that we have to use a visual analogy (e.g. object lesson, illustrative image) every time we teach. Every time. This is how we think. We think in pictures.
- Determine the “so what?” elements. Why does your presentation matter in the lives of those listening? What are the ‘takeaways’ that we need to make sure to get? What does your presentation matter?
- Define your key terms. Look through your material for terms that need uncoverage. So many times we use words or concepts that we think people know, but they really don’t. In fact, the reason you have been assigned a presentation is to help us know some of the key concepts in your material.
- Practice. Out loud. The key here is: Your ears need to hear what your mouth intends to say. Work on the sound of your presentation at this point. You have the visuals ready. Now work on the mechanics of the delivery. For more on the mechanics, check out this great web page on improving your presenting style.
- Then edit. Just like you should never turn in a ‘first draft’ paper, never present a first draft speech. Edit what your ears tell you sounded really bad. Re-arrange material to get a better flow and effect.
- Practice again. This time you practice for the performance elements: Confidence, eyes, gestures, technology, and time. Practice it as if you were performing it on American Idol and sought this response:
And (a hidden track/point) never go over your time limit. Never.
This may seem like a simple list. And they are. Yet few students do them.
Employ these eight (“nine, sir!”) steps, get your “A” and then Email me to let me know how it went!
What would you add to this list?