March 31, 2011

Do you feel sick when presenting?

The truth is - I too was scared to death of presenting in front of a group...! In fact, when I started to teach, I had at least 2 weeks of sleepless nights before my first class. I was sure that I would stand up and have nothing to say and the class would immediately disintegrate into total chaos, or  I'd be laughed at, fired or worse...
Somehow, between the period of my fears and the time I had to 'just do it' (as Nike so aptly puts it,) my nervousness turned into a sort of buzz and adrenaline rush, and with time and lots of practice, I now have almost no nerves at all - especially in a group that I'm familiar with.

So, what makes a presentation good, bad or just plain terrible?
Using the tool of 3's (use groups of three to say whatever you have to say), let me say this:
1. Do NOT read your notes!
2. Use your powerpoint slides, prezi, etc to help you!
3. Explain yourself well!

Now, let me explain...
No notes!!! First of all - No matter how bad your English is – it’s always better to speak spontaneously rather than read from notes (or memorize). Some people write beautiful proze which they actually can't even pronounce, but it's lost on the audience because of bad pronunciation or just simply due to the fact that we hear others better when they are talking to us at the level we understand - rather informal - like a friend... (check out TED talks for some very good speakers).
* People who speak spontaneously are easier to understand and make their point clearly and effectively.
* People who read notes are hard to follow and put the audience to sleep.
Use your slides to support you! Whether you use a PPT, a Prezi, the whiteboard or a flipchart, make sure that the presentation is clear and that it helps you to transfer your information to the audience. I often teach with a PPT because it helps keep me on track and also - all the main points are there to remind me to fill in the gaps. Which brings me to another point - do not write everything you are going to say on the slide... (and then subsequently read from the slide...) how boring is that?
Explain yourself: What I mean is this - with the exception of a few brilliant people - most of us have just mediocre intelligence and we need a clear explanation with links to the information to 'get' what we need to know. So, while you (the presenter) know what you are talking about (it's the subject of your expertise), remember that we (the audience) have no idea at all, unless you explain it to us. For example, if you show a chart  - you shouldn't say - "Well clearly this makes no sense..." - It would be easier for us to understand if you show the chart, explain the problem - "As you can see, the levels of C02 have been rising steadily for the past 2000 years, far before cars were invented, and therefore you can see that this information actually doesn't make sense at all!"

Having said all this, the teacher in me can go into regular mode now and enjoy the evening! :)


  1. I must admit, presentations with a difficult topic are sometimes nerve-wrackingggggg!!!! But once I’m standing in front of the class those nerves change to adrenaline and I tend to speak quickly and move my hands around while talking hehehe

    Btw, never knew teachers had a regular mode, al those exams, papers and homework to check… just thinking about it makes me ill

  2. I also speak fast, sometimes too fast, lately I try to watch that when lecturing and it is one of my improvement points as a presenter. And yes, being a teacher is a LOT OF WORK, and I am talking about evenings and weekends and hours and hours...but once your students score well on the exams and you get to inform them about how well they did, it makes all the hard work sooooo worth it!
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