I don’t know about you, but I love having students talk from the front of the classroom.
The knowledge and experience they share are fascinating, and they get speaking practice to boot. But you can’t just throw students up front and expect them to succeed. There are important steps to get them ready for upfront speaking. Going through each of these steps will ensure your students are prepared, practiced, and poised when they speak to the rest of their class.
Top 9 Tips for Successful and Effective Presentations
Have Them to Their Research First
How many students do you have that panic at the first mention of a presentation? It can be a struggle for some students to get up in front of their class when they are speaking their native language, never mind English. But before the panic has a chance to set in, make sure your students know the topics they will discuss during their presentations. Whether you tell them the purpose of the research before or after they do it is up to you, but it is important that students know the information they are going to present before they think about how they will present it. Take some class time to go online or research at your library. Encourage students to read and take notes so they will well informed before they think about how they will deliver that information to their classmates.
Have Them Stress Three or Four Major Points
With just about any topic, the information available can be overwhelming. Knowledge is so prolific these days a person can’t possibly say everything there is to know about a topic in one presentation. That’s why your students should stress three or four major points when they give their presentation rather than trying to give all the information they found in their research. Before they plan their presentation, ask student to think of the three most important points they want to make about their topic. Then encourage students to think of their presentation the same way they would an essay. They should start with some general comments or an interesting story (similar to an introduction). Then they should give three important pieces of information and use details to support those points (similar to the body of the essay). Finally, they should close the presentation with a summary and some final thoughts (similar to a written conclusion).
Encourage Students to Include Personal Anecdotes for Support and Interest
People love to hear personal stories. They can make a dry topic much more engaging and alive. Encourage your students to use at least one personal anecdote in their presentation. Since personal experiences are a great way to introduce a topic, many students may choose to start their presentation with an anecdote. You might also encourage them to tell part of a story at the start of their presentation and then finish the story after they have made their major points and before they summarize their presentation. Students might also choose to use anecdotes as support for details or to explain a confusing or complicated topics. No matter where they show up in a presentation, personal experiences will engage the listeners and bring more life to the topic your students are talking about.
Have Them Include Visual Aids
As your students are preparing their presentations, make sure they are planning on some type of visual aids to go along with their speech. There are many different and creative ways to include visuals in a presentation, but your students don’t have to be fancy. A simple PowerPoint presentation will be plenty. When they make their slides, encourage them to use the slides for more than just making their outline visible to the rest of the class. They might use pictures, diagrams, or quotations on their slides. They shouldn’t use too many slides or put too many words on any one slide as that can be distracting to listeners. They should think of their slide presentation as a way to share information with the class that would take too long to explain verbally. That is what makes the best visual aids in a presentation.
Make Sure They Include Questions in the Presentation
You don’t want your class members having a discussion while someone is up front presenting, but you do want them engaged with the speaker. Encourage your students to include a few rhetorical questions in their presentations. Asking questions will give listeners a chance to reengage if their minds have drifted off, and it will also give listeners a chance to anticipate what their classmate will say next in the presentation.
Don’t Let Students Read Off of a Transcript
Some students will want to work out every detail of their presentation before they give it, and that includes the exact words they will say. All too often I have had students bring a printed essay up front with them and then simply read it for their presentation. And while reading skills are valuable, I don’t like to assess them during class presentations. To make sure students do not rely on a transcript while presenting, I only allow them to use notecards while up front. For more advanced students, I limit them to only one notecard. Lower levels I allow as many as they need as long as their notes are not written in complete sentences. I encourage my students to use two or three words as reminders for each point they want to speak about while up front. What you allow your students is up to you. Just make sure they do not plan on reading a transcript from the podium when they present.
Stress That Students Should Be Careful about the Way They Speak
Giving a good presentation is more than just getting the vocabulary and grammar right. You should help your students think about their tone, intonation, and other patterns of speech as they talk from the front of the room. Remind students not to use slang and to vary the pace and pitch of their speech. They should stress important words by slowing down and putting emphasis on the words during the speech. Make sure that students are speaking at a loud enough volume (some students will tend to speak too quietly due to cultural values or personal fears of speaking up front). All of this attention to how they speak will make their presentations more effective.
Make Sure They Think about Body Language
Your students’ presentations will be more than just the words they say. The listeners will be looking at your students as they speak from up front. Encourage students to keep a straight posture and not lean back or forward as they speak. Students should keep their hands at their sides or on the podium as they speak and not move them around unless they need a gesture to explain something. Movements from up front are distracting unless they are for illustration purposes or are for drawing the audience’s attention to a particular point on the slide or something in the room.
Give Them Time to Practice with a Partner
One way to help students get ready to speak from up front is to give them practice time with a partner. Talking to one person in class is not the same thing as addressing all of their classmates, but giving your students an opportunity to go through their notes and think about the words they will use from up front will only help them as they present to the class. Take time for students to practice with one or two other students so their speech from up front won’t be the first time they have give that information to someone else.