Whether you’re a veteran or a novice teacher, you will, eventually, be called upon to do a presentation. This may happen at your school or for a larger audience. It’s universally recognized that teachers, however, can be a tough audience. How can you be certain your presentations will be a success? Here are some strategies to ensure compelling and meaningful presentations.
1. Prepare a Story
First, present the problem you’re attempting to solve. It is essential you research your topic, so you have the most important and timely information available. Most importantly, tell a story to illustrate the points you’re trying to make. TED talk curator Chris Anderson notes that conceptualizing and framing what you want to say is the most essential part of preparation. Humans are wired to listen to stories. So rather than simply presenting information to your audience, telling a tale can be far more effective in illustrating concepts and suggesting solutions. The story hooks your audience and keeps people engaged.
Further Reading: Presentation Tips for Students: Take the Fear Out of Public Speaking
2. Know Your Audience
Don’t go into a conference blind. Audiences vary, and you want to be sure you tailor your content to the folks in the room. If participants include K-12 teachers, and you teach high school, make sure you have some valuable information for K-8 teachers. If your audience includes guidance counselors and other educators, your presentation should address their needs, too. Do a bit of a background check to find out the issues most important to the educators in the room. What has their year been like? What are they struggling with? Can your work be part of the solution? Make an effort to connect with every member of your audience.
If you’re using PowerPoint or Google Slides, use colorful and eye-catching designs that are not word-heavy. Think about representation in your photos and pictures. And remember: Do not read your slides to the audience. Work on your stage presence. Anderson points out one of the biggest mistakes presenters make is to move their bodies too much. So don’t sway, pace, or shift your weight from leg to leg. It’s distracting. He advises standing still and using hand gestures for emphasis. Making eye contact with several people in the audience will also improve your presence.
One of the biggest factors in the success of presentations is how well-prepared you are. Practice truly makes perfect. The time you spend rehearsing your performance, anticipating questions and issues, and working on your flow is directly correlated to nailing the presentation. It’s worth it to put in this time. Practice will give you the self-confidence needed to achieve a powerful experience.
The first thing I do when I have a big presentation is to get to the room early. Then, I make friends with the tech person. The anxiety I have around failing technology is epic, so arriving early, setting up, and doing a tech check (to make sure I have everything from the necessary cables to the proper lighting) is critical.
6. Be Action-Oriented
Teachers love presentations that give them strategies they can use immediately in their classrooms. Marketing strategist Tamsen Webster points out that good presentations focus on providing a specific set of things we need to do to make change happen. While theory can be important, providing action-oriented steps geared toward fixing a problem is key.
7. Handle Hecklers and Other Issues
Public speaking consultant Esther Snippe notes there are two kinds of hecklers: active hecklers, who interrupt or talk over you, and passive hecklers, who have independent conversations with others in the audience or use their phones while you’re presenting. Her advice is to hear the heckler out, and respond accordingly. Don’t try to be funny, don’t let it get personal. If the heckling continues, ask them to stop. For example, say, “Could you hold the comments until the end?” or “I love it when audience members are active, but I’d appreciate it if you’d let me get back to my presentation,” or “Interesting point. Let’s discuss it further when I’m through.” You can even work to get the audience on your side by asking them if they want you to continue, or if they’d rather listen to the heckler. In almost every case, the audience’s response will silence the heckler.
Further Reading: Education Conferences Are a Great Place for Teachers to Grow
Be sure to reflect on your experience after it is over. Ask for feedback. What went well? What could you change to make your performance better? This information can help you if you need to do the same presentation again, or it can provide valuable information you can utilize the next time you present on any topic.
Presenting can be an exciting, powerful, and rewarding experience. If you follow these strategies, you can be sure your work will be both helpful and entertaining for your audience.