Saturday, November 10, 2007

Improving your presentation skills

The other day I marked some presentations given by students which had a common theme: their presentation skills needed some more work. This made me reflect on my own performance especially as I am about to give a presentation next week at a conference about recruitment and retention of health professionals. I recently gave a small presentation at Otago Polytechnic and whilst I think it went well, I definitely went over time.

So I have revisited Sue Waters' blog posts about effective presentation skills and hope to incorporate them into my presentation. The key points for me are:

1. use humor and be entertaining - that doesn't just appeal to the audience but it relaxes me as well;
2. don't read from notes - I wish my students would take this point on board!;
3. be enthusiastic about your topic - that will draw in the audience;
4. minimize bullet points - use lots of images and keep font size large;
5. capture the audience's attention from the start - this may mean re-ordering what you were going to say.

The main thing that has struck me from reading Sue's posts is that there is a changing view of presentations and that bullet points are out - Sue calls this 'presentation 2.0'. Instead of using a lot of text, one uses images. This comes as a bit of blow to me because a. I like to use the text as a prompt for me and b. I am not very imaginative, so how am I going to come up with relevant images?

The outcome of all this is that I have become a lot more familiar with Flickr which is a great repository of images that can available for use as long as there an open or creative commons copyright attached to the image. The other outcome is that I am going to have to remember to take my camera around with me more so I build up a library of my own images to use. This may mean I have to get a smaller camera that is easier to cart around and even take a few photographic lessons, but at the very least I need to engage more with the creative part of my brain (I'm not even sure I have one?!?) and be proactive about looking for images to capture. So, I'll give presentation 2.0 a go next week and see how I get on.


Carolyn McIntosh said...

I think that these tips for presentations are really good. I wonder whether the same holds true when using power point for teaching. Our students do like to use power points for revision and would not get the same value from them if they used lots of images and little text.Is it enough to have just images and key points or headings I wonder.

Sarah Stewart said...

I suppose you have to ask what you want your slide presentation to achieve - I am very clear that I am not reproducing the information they can get in their books etc. My slide shows are only meant to be a prompt or guide that stimulates them to go off and do more reading/investigating. After all, we didn't re-write their textbooks when we used a blackboard.

Sue Waters said...

Hi Sarah

I am glad my post on being a better presenter has helped you. Excellent point about humour - that is exactly what I do because I use it to relax myself.

Carolyn has made a really good point. You have caught me out :). Bullets still exist with my powerpoint that I use with students because my students are vocational education and training students. At Uni I would write down every single word the lecturer said however my students will only write down what they see. If it is not written then it must not be something they need to write. What I can tell you is that at the conference when a presenter had lots of written text that he then spoke - I could not focus on reading, writing and listening. So this is something we need to consider.

With your students have you thought about using videoing to improve their presentation technique? For example I know the ESL teachers have found that getting students to create audio podcasts benefits the students because it makes them more aware of their progress. By video you can get each student to watch their own presentation and reflect on aspects that need improving.

Sarah Stewart said...

I must admit, I have been thinking further about this and came to the same conclusion that we should probably add audio to our slides, especially for distance students who have not had access to the face-to-face discussion that originally went with the slides.

As for videoing the students - I think that's a great idea. The problem with this particular group was that they were just finishing the program and I think they just run out of energy and motivation to do anything too exciting. Maybe we need to think about it as an assessment and change it so that we don't run into that problem again although presentations are a great way to share information with the rest of the class. I have to say, Sue, that a couple of my students said they'd read your post and found it really helpful.

Sue Waters said...

I think you would find regardless of when a student has to do a presentation most struggle at it. But they are not alone. It always amazes me when I watch an educator do a presentation grab their notes and read from them -- what the? we do this all the time - why read?

Glad to hear it helped some of your students.

Anonymous said...

thanks Sarah for initiating some discussion on this, I think it is really important. One of our roles as educators is to teach of course but more so I think to facilitate learning to occur and to engage students in a process that will enable learning.
One way I have tried to do this is by asking a relevant or key question on the power point and then expecting the students to problem solve - and come up with the bullet points.
The rationale is that it models what they will do in practice in relation to the topics and they have to interact or engage to find out or learn. The learning that occurs through a process they have participated in seems more memorable or significant. I think it is definitely about how we use ppt. Sometimes I have found students can't really be bothered with that though.
I agree with Carolyn's point re students having an expectation around getting all the info supplied via ppt so they have a study tool supplied and lets face it - have less work to do themselves. Personally I find this a bit of a fast food approach to education and would always prefer them to use the range of resources, texts and review evidence etc rather than rely on one ppt. I totally agree Sarah that we are not there to rewrite the texts for them in the form of bullets. I think students who rely on the ppt to inform themselves usually come up short in an assessment. I also think students sometimes make this demand to avoid having to come to class and engage - (no doubt for a huge variety of reasons- time management, having other responsibilities or priorities or whatever) but I also find these students often lack full perspective around course topics and i think it is up to us as educators to stretch them beyond this kind of default approach. As practitioners we want them to be capable of more than getting a list and following instructions - for practice they have to know how to think for themselves, work it through and problem solve. That said bullet points are very popular with the students as carolyn has pointed out. In class I try to use them just to flick up after the students have already provided the answers to affirm what they knew. It seems to work with groups who are motivated and well prepared for class but sometimes thats not the case and thats a real challenge and so at times I have found myself resorting to just running through the ppt for them. When this happens I usually feel a bit ripped off and a bit bored.

Megan Walker said...

Hi Sarah

I agree with your comment, being one of the students who did her last presentation last week! From a personal viewpoint, I had run out of "oomph"! The motivation and enthusiasm to do the presentation just wasn't there. Still feel passionate about my topic, but not about doing anything exciting with it in terms of a presentation!

Now back to the study...!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Megan, thanks for popping by and leaving your comment. Good luck with the study!!

Anonymous said...

hey sarah hope you are having fun over there - I am your anonymous comment maker LOL - but only cos I don't know how to give myself an identity - so um how does it work again?

Sarah Stewart said...

Thought it was you, Rae. What you need to do is get an account. I have sent you an invitation to join the blog I have set up for the third years. This blog will only be available to them and us. Once you have joined that, then you will have your identity here. You can also make your own blog if you want to. I plan to talk to the students about the blog, and get them all connected, on our orientation day. Also, plan to show them a couple of other useful tools ie, co.mments and Google reader. You'll probably find those tools useful to use as well if you don't already.

Linda Robertson said...

An interesting thought about the visuals superseding bullet points - about time I say! We pay a lot of lip service to the fact that there are basic learning styles and make huge assumptions that everyone should like the reader/writer style which includes bullet points. It certainly is a thought about having a camera handy (I shall regard you more suspiciously from now on in case I detect a small protrusion from your handbag!). What about those that prefer kinaethetic approaches and aural? Perhaps the hands on nature of elearning appeals to those who enjoy a hands on approach (do I hear myself arguing for the benefits of 3-learning??!) Must be time to sign off before I get too carried away.

Sarah Stewart said...

Love the ideas, Linda. I haven't thought much about different ways of learning much until recently, but now am thinking a lot more about this and paying more attention to what captures my attention - this is courtesy of YouTube and Slideshare - a benefit of this course that I had not considered before.

Buddy said...

About using notes, I typically liked using powerpoint and putting some sort of keywords on the text that would remind me what I have to say. The Young Entrepreneur Society from the provides resources for business people.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for your comment Buddy, but the link didn't really make much sense to me. cheers Sarah

berry said...

Your pointers are all very importnat. However, don't forget to think about your body langauge. Only 7% of what you communicate will be from the words, the rest is body langauge and voice!

Sarah Stewart said...

I'm starting to do a lot of online presentations - how do I get over the problem of body language in that situation.