12 Presentation Tips for Presenters - Curtis Kelly
I wrote these tips for new presenters, but even experienced presenters might benefit by reviewing them. The most important tips are in blue.
Most of the suggestions below are based in brain-based educational techniques. We now know that these factors are critical to learning: a) emotion (tips 1, 4, 5, & 6), b) reduced cognitive load (tips 2, 3, 7, 8,& 9), and being active (tips 10 & 11).
1) Why should I care?
This is the question in everyone’s head that you must deal with (Gallo, 2009). The best way to make the audience care is to start with a problem or question they have, and make your presentation the solution. "Do you have trouble getting students to remember new vocabulary?” Or, “Your job is to teach reading, but do you really know what happens in the brain when people read? You should. It’ll make you a better teacher." I often start with a problem or question and then have them do a 2 min. discussion make the problem even more personal. Making them care is needed in every part of your speech. If you are going to show them a technique, connect it to the problem it solves first. "Are your students sleepy after lunch? Then try this…"
2) Focus your presentation on just one question to answer, maybe two if they are sequential. (I did this in my recent speech on Why do we have memory and what does the answer teach us about how the brain processes language.) No one wants to hear everything you know.
3) Avoid speaking longer than ten minutes at a stretch. Include short discussions, videos, quizzes, music, interviews, energy breaks or whatever to break it up. I often used 30-60 second video slices from TED talks.
4) Good design is a mixture of clarity and mystery.
Don’t just tell them everything. Have them figure things out themselves. Do things that make them ponder answers to questions rather than just answering them. If you can lead them into finding the solution to the big problem themselves (As I tried in “Why is memory faulty?”) they’ll love it. (I also do this in Writing from Within presentations too. Using leading questions, I have the audience pretty much generate the book design before I even show them the book.)
5) Look hard for “Wow” moments.
Is there any data you found that was surprising? Big contrasts? Draw those out into things that make the audience feel “wow.”
For example, if a study found children studying words by repeating them retained 15%, by writing them, 20%, but by singing them 80%, don’t put the whole chart on the screen at once. Have the parts come as “appears” and pause before the last before showing it. “These are two methods we use to teach vocabulary. Which do you think is stronger? Yes, writing. (show 15 % and 20% bars) Well, putting the words in songs is even stronger. How much stronger? (now show 80% and enjoy the “wow” ripple through the audience) Exploit the wows with repetition. Say “Four times stronger. Imagine if you could increase your vocabulary teaching ability by 400%,"
6) Include stories.
A great presentation is full of them. They catch the audience so much better than an explanation alone. “2015. I was teaching a writing class. And then something happened …”
7) Don’t use the manuscript you wrote.
Writing is far too complex, with long strings, for listeners to process. Speaking is made up of short utterances with lots of repetition, questions, and clear references (Say the thing, person or place every time, avoiding memory-taxing references like “it,” or “he”)
8) Avoid Sliduments.
This is what Garr Reynolds calls slides full of text, as if someone just pasted their research paper in. Limit slides to 7 words per page, and just one picture, or two if you need to compare something. Avoid moving animations; they distract the audience. We don’t need to know your agenda for the day, every one of your research hypotheses or all the results. Put the latter in your handout. In fact, we don’t care how you did your research. We care about what you found solves our problems!
9) Reduce cognitive load.
Listening is not easy. It taxes one’s working memory to the fullest. Reduce the linguistic load by phrasing: short pauses between grammatical chunks (the boy…went out…to play); use long pauses to emphasize; use gestures & drama to help them visualize; use direct instead of indirect speech with different voices; and most important, speaking, not writing language (no. 7 above).
10) Make the audience active.
Having the audience discuss, write, interact, partake in quizzes, etc. keeps their attention.
11) Have the audience move.
Blood flow affects energy, attention, and interest. Even just having the audience stand up to do a pair activity increases blood flow.
12) Practice with your body.
Stand up and speak out when you rehearse. Poise, movement, eye contact need to be practiced too, and from what we know about the brain, practicing in the same way you will deliver makes recall easier when you really do deliver.
Having someone listen to and comment on your presentation can do wonders. Feel free to mail us if you'd like help before the conference or come to our Friday night session at the conference venue, where we will listen to your presentation and make suggestions.