Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Presentations

This semester, two of my classes have presentations as a component of the grade. In one, we're going to do something akin to "Lifestyles of the Worthless and Exploited" or "MTV cribs" for the Spanish class. I think that one will be interesting, because we've been asked to prepare a video of our home in which we describe each room to the camera OR we complete a power point presentation and speak about our house en frente del clase.

I'm making the video, so next weekend's project is to unpack the boxes I've been ignoring.

Meanwhile, in the other class, we had to do a presentation and write a paper about some aspect of learning. Over the course of three weeks, members of the class got up and spoke about their topic. Some were compelling, many were not. I think mine fell into the competent range, but then, I've had no trouble speaking in front of an audience. My friends in the class told me they enjoyed it, so I'll take that as a good sign.

My friend Jenn did hers tonight and kicked it off with a video of a news story that tied into her topic. She was well versed. Another friend's was also well presented, even though I know she hates the class and was not enthused about the assignment.

I think the best ones were the ones that had personal relevance for the person presenting. One classmate is a substitute teacher-she presented on a teaching method that is used in many schools. Another friend reported on selective mutism and ways to help the student because one of her daughters is extremely shy around anyone but family It was cool to gain insights as to what areas of psychological study grab other student's interest.

However, among the good ones, there were many that seemed to drag. It would be helpful if we could kindly offer some pointers:

*Take the gum out of your mouth when you're in front of the group
*Speak to your audience as if you're the expert and you're sharing your knowledge. Saying "Of course, we all know that..." when many of us didn't was frustrating. (easily half the class had not taken Drugs and Behavior to know what the heck she was talking about)
*PROOFREAD your slides
*If you can't pronounce those big words in the journal article, please skip trying to pronounce them when you're standing nervously in front of the class
*Don't put reminders to yourself in the points on the slides unless you can effectively use humor. (Breathe, don't forget to breathe, you're almost done and ahh, you're finished are best saved for your notes, not the slide projected to the class)
*If you're not interested in your topic, your audience will not be interested
*If your presentation is on something that has personal significance to a previous presenter, don't stare at that person the whole time as if you're lecturing only to him or her. It can be disconcerting to that person.

I know why the professor wanted us to get in front of the class and I wish so many more would do it as part of their instruction, because it's good to get these kinds of public speaking issues out of the way before one enters the job market. Don't you think?

And for those of you on the other side of this, what are the things you wish you'd see more of when you're in the audience? What are the things you wish people would realize are not a good idea when they are standing behind the podium?

Hmm, does Toastmasters have campus organizations?

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