Best Practices, Education, Learning and Development

A Few Presentation Tips

For years I attended teacher training seminars. Many were laughable. Someone who hadn’t been in a classroom for years stood in front of a room full of teachers reading a PowerPoint about how to teach. First rule of presenting, try not to insult your audience. Secondly, reading to them is boring.

Engage their mind, get the attention of your audience.  Start with a question or statement relevant to your topic. Try to come back to the introductory thought at the end.

If you are bored presenting, your audience will be bored listening. Speak in your natural voice, with confidence, and be yourself. Many of us are nervous when presenting. Remember this, your audience is not rooting for your failure. That would be very uncomfortable for them. Finally, care about your topic. Passion and excitement is contagious.  If you demonstrate how important your topic is, your audience will feel it and you will connect with them.

Another tidbit I learned in the classroom, everyone loves a good story- and story teller. Present your information. Don’t read to your audience. That’s boring. If you are the presenter, you probably know the content better than your audience so present with confidence. Whenever possible, provide a relevant example that helps to reinforce your content. I used to teach what many students said was a boring subject. When I could find a relevant story to tell about a particular historical topic, the students were riveted. At times it was alarming. I would realize they were listening and have a moment of stage fright. The story brought the history to life. They were able to make connections and the history became real, not just something that happened a long time ago and doesn’t matter now. Having something relevant to share engages your audience and helps them make connections.

Sometimes it isn’t our confidence, spelling errors, or information on the presentation that is distracting.  Sometime it is our body language and actions. Try not to stare at the screen. You’re speaking to the audience and if you do not look at them, they are not engaged. If you turn your back to them, you lose engagement. Also, don’t stand in front of the screen- especially if there is a projector that will make you glow or project content across your forehead.  If you are using PowerPoint, there is a presenter mode. If you use the notes section of each slide, your audience sees only the slide. You see your notes. Rather than facing the slide you can face your audience, and when necessary refer to the notes in front of you.

And finally…

Connect with your audience. Try to make eye contact, or at least pretend to. Look in the vicinity of your audience and move your eyes to different parts of the room.  When asking for questions, ask someone specific what they think of a topic, or if they have an example they could share. When appropriate, encourage your audience to participate and engage. You may have to encourage specific individuals. If you have questions you really want to answer and hope people ask, solicit assistance from friends in the audience to ask those questions at an appointed time. Someone willing to start participating will encourage others.

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