Tips For Classroom Presentations
Introduction of Presenters: 0:00-0:42 Slide 1
Welcome to our presentation on tips for classroom presentations. I’m joined by Heather Strode. Heather and I went to grad school here together at Western where we got our Masters in Communication. We’ve been teaching communication classes since the late 90’s and what we want to go over today, I know that as students, since we’ve been there, most classes will require some sort of presentation, not just communication classes . So, we want you guys to be prepared for preparing and facing these presentations in all of your classes regardless of the nature. And the first thing we want to go over, we want to discuss the importance of knowing who is going to be in the audience with you.
0:44- Slide 2
Now, obviously your teacher is going to be present. Your teacher is going to be grading you, so you do want to understand both the nature of the assignment and your teacher’s expectations. But you also want to keep in mind their personal tastes as well as the language that you’re going to use depending on the appropriateness of the situation. You also want to, in this case, use more technical terms and jargon then you might ordinarily because it is very important that you talk as if you truly understand the subject material. In addition to the teacher you do want to keep your classmates in mind. Maybe they aren’t going to be grading you but they are very important on a personal level. So the same deal with the language make sure the language is appropriate for a college setting. Also, make sure you sound like you really know what you are talking about. But the better you get to know your classmates the more comfortable you are going to be giving the actual presentation. So think how that is going to translate into your delivery. Now while we are talking about the comfort level let’s go on and talk about why people fear public speaking in the first place.
1:46- Slide 3
I know that, Clint and I have seen this every semester. We always have students that ask us “why do we have to take a public speaking course?” I think given the choice of taking a public speaking course or not taking one I think that students are so fearful of public speaking that they don’t see the benefit of actually just putting yourself in a situation where you have to conquer that fear. So a number one reason, I think or some of my number one, is that we don’t put ourselves in situations and students especially with situations where we will have to have get in front of a group and actually be graded and critiqued. So these are a couple well a few things on this slide. We need to be able to judge whether or not in each occasion the formality or informality of the type of public speaking we want to do. Absolutely! A lot of people wait so long that they dislike the idea of public speaking so much that they never really get a chance to perform it. If you only wait to give presentations at things like wedding toasts, for example, you are going to be facing a pretty big crowd there. So you have to find situations where you won’t have to face such large crowds, smaller groups, more friendly environments usually. So people do fear public speaking just because of the importance of the occasion, if they only give presentations when there is a huge grade riding on it, for example. You have to get pass that. Plus, people do tend to have what we call anxiety sensitivity where they are not scared but then when they get up there they over think and overanalyze. They think “well what if I do get scared ?” They are scared of being scared and that causes problems with their delivery. People also fear public speaking because they have messed up in the past. Everybody does, right? I mean everybody has had an instance where they have been in front of group where either they didn’t cover all of the material that they had prepared or they just went on a tangent and covered something else that they didn’t even prepare for. So I think one of the things that you need to caution yourself with before you give a presentation is to allow yourself the feeling of that you don’t have to be perfect. We are all human. Even if in the past if you had a situation where you weren’t as successful as you wanted to be in front of a group, take from that not just the negatives but the positives. You were in front a group, you have that experience now learn from it. Allowing yourself the freedom of not being perfect is one of the things that I try to instill in my students. I am not perfect, when I am lecturing. There are plenty of times where maybe I didn’t cover everything that I wanted to cover. I have made mistakes in front of the group. I think allowing yourself that freedom really takes the anxiety level down. I always have students that say “how to I relate this to my audience they are not going to care about what I have to say” and that gives a sense of fear about being in front of the group. I think one think that you have to think about your audience, if you are interested in what you are talking about then your audience will be interested but also the vice versa is true. If you are not interested in what you are talking about then they will not be interested either. Absolutely! Well we do have those misconceptions about our audience members and like Heather said as teachers we grade thousands of presentations per year. We know that you are going to make mistakes and your audience members know you will make mistakes so don’t worry about it because you are all in the same boat. When you are giving a presentation in a class usually everyone else will be giving a presentation as well. Don’t worry about that. We do know that people do not always like being evaluated but until someone invents a way to grade without going through this whole process then this is what we are stuck with. The last reason why people fear public speaking is because they expect horrible things to happen to them but in reality what is the worst thing that can happen. Really, I just had a conversation with a student today about this. She kept thinking what is going to happen if I mess up, well what if you do mess up? Maybe you take your time and let another student go so you can recollect your thoughts and then get back in front of the group. The idea about public speaking, especially in the learning environment of a university is don’t view it as something that if you create this vision in your mind that you are going to fail then that ultimately predicts bad things for the presentation. Absolutely! While you talking about that, that also leads into something else.
6:33- Slide 3
Let’s talk about controlling our stage freight or communication anxiety. We have been talking about our experience in communication classes and Heather just hit on the process of visualization. Obviously if you want to get better with public speaking, since most people are not familiar with it in the first place, then taking a class is going to go a long way. It will give you plenty of opportunities to practice what we are preaching here. But visualization is another concept that a lot of actors and athletes use this. They picture themselves doing something well. If you picture yourself doing something poorly then you are going to be nervous when you are doing it. So if you picture yourself doing something the right way then that should help out as well. Some other tips, you have to think positively about yourself and the opportunity. Think about it this way, your audience members have to be there, right? You have the opportunity to really help them out and give them some information that they can use the rest of their lives to make better decisions. You have to think positively about yourself because anyone can do this. No one is born a great speaker. You become a good speaker, why couldn’t you? If you come through this doorway thinking you are going to do a bad job then you are not going to feel good when you are up there. You might still do a good job but you are going to be nervous. If you think that well I can do this there is no reason why I can’t get up there and give a presentation, then you won’t be as nervous and that will actually help you out. I think too that the more you prepare ahead of time, this is not something that you want to procrastinate on when you are preparing for a speech. The writing part of the speech is probably the easiest. Most students say it is actually envisioning themselves giving the speech is what creates the most anxiety. So if you can focus on the message and really have a good grasp on what you want to say and how you want to say it, rather than focusing on wow my heart is beating really fast or my hands are shaking. 90 percent of the nervousness the audience will not see and you don’t want to draw their attention to it anyways. Exactly! Most people in the audience will not see that you are nervous. Some other ideas, repeating a special word, if you are in to some special relaxation techniques that is fine to. As we said before don’t expect perfection out of your presentation.
8:45- Slide 4
Get to know your audience when you can because that will make you more comfortable. Also, very important when you know that you have a presentation coming up get a good night’s sleep, eat well, do the normal stuff. Do not spend the night before cramming because that is not effective. I have never seen anyone throw up before giving a presentation. Just go about your daily routine. Don’t do anything stupid. I once had a friend of mine that decided he was too scared to give a presentation so he got drunk before the presentation. He failed the presentation. That is really stupid when you think about the long term. Just go up there give the presentation and you will be fine. Remember to breathe and take your time. Silence, I think, sometimes scares students where there is a brief time when nothing is being said and all the focus is on you. Remember that silence appears a lot longer to you as the speaker then it does to the audience. One thing, I tell my students that I don’t want them to memorize their speeches. I want it to be a natural speech. I don’t like them to memorize. I think that if you memorize something I think that you can get thrown off if you don’t remember a word or a certain phrase that you wanted to say. I do encourage them, however, to know their introduction as well as anything in the presentation. One, this is going to set the tone for the rest of the presentation not only for the audience but for the speaker. Yeah, if you get through your introduction without making many mistakes that does set you at ease for the rest of the presentation. Some other tips: find low-risk speaking situations, find opportunities to talk to other people. This will help you out across the board any type of communication not just public speaking but little things. If you go read in a nursing home or read to little kids, they will not be overly critical of you but they will just be happy that you are there. Visual aids also help out. If you are the kind of person that is worried about having a lot of eye balls on you then give your audience something else to look at. That does take a little bit of anxiety away from you. Like Heather was saying, you have to be prepared. If you don’t what you are going to say or how you are going to say it, how in the world are you going to feel truly at ease when you are giving the presentation itself. Exactly! If the speaker is unprepared then the audience has an uncertainly about it to then everyone is not at ease. It is a weird vibe and no one wants to sit through that.
11:14- Slide 5
Since we are talking about preparation then let’s talk about some rehearsing tips. Heather was mentioning before that it is very important to show your audience that you have learned your material. Anyone can memorize. Look at actors in Hollywood they memorize lines. That’s not that hard. You want to show the audience that you actually know what you are talking about. When it comes to learning the speech itself, maybe you want to focus on small segments of the speech at the beginning and then kinda run through the entire speech. Make sure you know how long you are going to be speaking because when you are giving classroom presentations everyone has to give a presentation so you only have a limited amount of time. Make sure that you double check that as well. In the length of the speech too, Clint a lot of times I have found that students speak faster, or more quickly, in front of the group so they will always say when I timed it at home it was 5 minutes but when I gave the speech here it was only 3 minutes and 30 sections. We have the tendency because of nervousness to omit information or speak quickly. Make sure you keep that in mind. When you are practicing if you can, practice in the actual classroom, it is a psychological concept called transfer of training. Think of it this way, our football team practices on the football field. It makes perfect sense. If you want to get the most of your practice, then practice in the classroom. If you can, practice with an audience of people that will give you constructive criticism. It has been said that imagining your audience when rehearsing can be helpful. You have to make sure, we will talk about this when talk about actually giving the speech, the importance of things like eye contact. It is important to visualize what is going to be like with an audience. After rehearsing you have to honestly look at your performance, what do I need work on and what can I improve on. This is going to help you on game day. One of the things now with technology and this is something that I encourage my students to do is video themselves. You don’t have to post it or let anyone else see it. Analyze yourself in your facial experiences, how much eye contact. You can make changes from there if you need to and if you need to rehearse it or make notes on your note cards then it can help you in the long run.
13:33- Slide 6
Exactly! Heather brought up note cards. If your teacher is allowing you to use note cards for your presentations, we always do because it is much better than trying to memorize everything. Well if you noticed, even power points can serve as similar note cards. We don’t have everything written out up here but we as instructors we use some sort of something to help remind us to stay on topic. Absolutely! Note cards, we always recommend using a few note cards. The more you write out the more you are going to read ultimately. Nobody wants to watch a speech being read to them it is boring and it doesn’t show that you know anything. Other tips for your sake: only write on one side of the card and abbreviate. Make sure that if you do want to write anything out fully, things like quotations you don’t want to misquote anybody obviously, statistics, and when you are citing your sources. These are things that you don’t want to get wrong so you might want to consider writing them out fully. Ultimately you just want to write key words. Also, make sure you can actually read them. If you note cards are not legible then they are not helping anybody. Something else that I have found, number your note cards. Little things I have seen speakers drop their note cards before. They gather them up and they are not in order. That gets them flustered. It is really not a big deal but when you are the speaker it seems that everything is going wrong. You don’t want that to happen. You want to make things go as smooth as possible. Those are some things you can do with note cards.
15:05- Slide 7
Now that we have talked about note cards let’s talk about before we actually start our speech. One of the things I have found so often with my students is that when they walk to the room there is already this sense of defeat. They have to give this speech and they are not walking up there like they are in control of the situation. The best thing that you can do as the speaker is to make your audience feel like you are confident and that you have an air of confidence about yourself. So make sure you have your materials out. Make sure that your note cards are numbered and that you have your visual aids ready to go. Don’t feel that you have to start as soon as you reach the front of the room. Take your time. It is not a race. I think sometimes I have students that will start on their way up there before they even get to the podium. Again, we talked about apologies and the nervousness. Don’t apologize to the audience that you are nervous. I always have this, I wrote this speech last night. Not a good way to start it. You know it is going to be bad. If you tell the audience I am not really good at this then they will notice your faults. If you just get up there like a normal person not someone that says I guess I will just get this out of the way that doesn’t make the teacher feel like you really want to be there and that doesn’t impress anybody. Don’t apologize and just go up there like you are confident. Remember, again the breathing because it does help with the nervousness. Also, keep in mind that you are about to talk longer then you normally talk with your friends in a conversation. You are going to completely monopolize a conversation and you are not used to speaking 5 minutes, 10 minutes or however long the assignment is without taking a break. Take a deep breath so you don’t feel rushed in your introduction.
16:45- Slide 8
Here’s this introduction. The reasons why the introduction is so important is that people do have a tendency to remember more of the first and last things that they hear, so this is the first thing you are going to say in the presentation you have to grab the audience’s attention. Just because people are in the same room as you does not guarantee that they are paying attention to you.
17:07- Slide 9
So, let’s go over some attention getting techniques. One of the things that I always say first not to do, we are going to tell you some things to do, is not to say well I don’t this very well, I just learned this from Google or I just learned this last night. The importance of the topic, we always stress to select a topic if your professor allows, that you know something about and that you feel some sort of connection to. With a topic, get the attention first before you reveal the topic. One of the most annoying things is when someone says, my speech is about this or hello my name is and what I am going to talk about it is. No book starts out that way. No movie starts off with this movie is about. Get their attention. If you want to talk about how important the topic is, people are going to listen. Other ways to get their attention either lay on some startling facts or some statements that make them curious. I mean if you get the audience thinking then you probably have their attention. Ask them questions that provoke thought, either real or hypothetical. If you have a really classy quote, you want to keep them short though. You don’t want to start a speech off with a really long quote then everyone will hear that the first thing coming out of your mouth is nonsense and wonder if the whole speech is going to be like this. Keep them short. If you want to tell a short story then that is fine. We play well with stories. I think is just the personal nature of being human. Another thing, jokes. I don’t mind jokes but they have to be classroom appropriate. They need to be something that either relates to your topic or that the audience understands. Don’t tell a joke, the worst thing is for a student to tell a joke and then nobody gets it or you can’t deliver the lines.
19:12- Slide 10
To establish your credibility, which you want to keep your credibility throughout the speech but, you want to make sure that your audience understands early that you know your stuff. If you have personal experience work then hit on that, at least discuss that you have done a lot of research and also quote people who are credible because their credibility kind of transfers to you if you agree with there’s. Remember research, it is very important that you are citing your stuff, you can’t just say stuff like “I saw this online” well where? You have to let the instructors know and the audiences know. It is not a paper, there are no foot notes for us to easily reference those. You have got to tell us right at that time where that information came from and your delivery is definitely a part of your credibility.
20:06- Slide 11
Well let’s talk about the delivery too—vocal qualities. Because one of the things that I have seen with students is that there is a tendency to talk, when you get in front of a group, softer. I think volume is one of the things that students are scared to use, you have to add a little umph to your voice and I think there is a perception of being more credible the louder your voice is. The people that speak soft do not sound credible. You have to think of your volume level and make sure that it is loud enough to hit everybody in the room. Also think about the pace of your speech. Obviously credibility is linked to the speed of your voice. People who talk real slow, sometimes we think that they are not that smart. It is unfair but people do judge people that way. You need to be able to hold people attention but don’t talk so fast that no one can understand you though. Now this is another reason that you don’t want to fight out to much. When you see people that don’t really know the material and tend to read too much you sound like you are reading one word at a time. It is annoying. You lose the audience’s attention after the first 30 seconds, the pitch of your voice, very important as well, because pitch is what shows the audience emotion. If you are very monotones and you talk in one tone and it is horrible to listen to you have got to make sure that you vary that. A lot of time speakers are leery of any dead time in their speaking time but really, you can use pauses effectively. If you are moving from one subject to another, and you really want the audience to think about and really let the information sink in. It also can add some drama to it, pauses are very important to a speech. If you have pauses where you don’t know what you are going to say you want to eliminate those. Some people call them vocalized pauses, some people call them fillers, basically when something is coming out of your mouth and it has nothing to do with the speech. Like you know, like when some people, like, say like all of the time and they lose credibility over it. Or when they are constantly going Uh or “you know what I mean”. Get read of those, they are hard to get read of but you need to do that. Also, make sure that you are pronunciation words correctly. So you have got pronounce words the way they should be pronounced. And there are going to be times when you are giving a presentation where you have a lot to say and words are not going to come out as sharply s you wish they did. As long as you don’t draw attention to them most people won’t ever notice. It is when you mispronounce words and draw attention to them is when everyone in the audience knows. That is when you kind of look like a dunce. Ok, so the vocal qualities are very important.
Now let’s look at what the audience will be looking at, you have to keep the visual qualities in mind, you are not on the radio here, people are looking at you. Your appearance, the last thing that you want to be worried about in front of a group is “what am I wearing”. Now general appearances doesn’t mean that you have to dress up, we don’t usually make students dress up but just make sure that you feel comfortable in how you appear and the type of appearance that you are going to give to your audience. The fit of the clothing, jewelry, I have seen people fidget with that too much. Have your hair up if you have long hair, just little stuff like that that might be distracting to you. Like gestures and things, I think sometimes you get conflicting views on should I use gestures, should I not use gestures. I think as long as they are natural and you are expressive when you do it. Anything that is attractive in your speech. If your arms are just whaling around I think that is definitely going to take away from your speech. Yes, as long as your gestures complement your speech. Your facial expressions, again, if the topic is serious you cannot be smiling all of the time. Some people get nervous and tend to smile a lot. Or if the topic is fun you can’t just stand up their stuff as a board. Also, eye contact is very important. If you do not maintain eye contact with your audience not only do you look less credible you won’t get any feedback from them if you are not looking at them. You can’t see if they agree or disagree or if you need to add anything if you aren’t looking at them. If you need to clarify a point, you have to be conscious of that. Not only are you giving a speech but you have to be aware of the audience and their needs. Autumnally, you have to meet their expectations.
25:08- Slide 13
Always remember that listening is harder then reading, they are not given a print out of your speech. Therefore, you need to use repetition. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you have told them. In the introduction you are going to tell them what you want them to know, you are going to really force that in the body of the speech, and then in the conclusion you are going to tell them what you just told them. What this does it that it gives the audience a map to follow. If you’re not pinpointing when you are going to move from one transition to another, the audience doesn’t know when you have finished your introduction and when you are ready to move on to your main points. You have got to tell the audience what is coming up next.
26:00- Slide 14
Because you are not going to remember everything that a person says so you need to give them a heads up and tell them what is going to be covered in the speech then the audience is going to understand that this is important things and then we cover them one by one in the body of the speech and then the audience is going to understand that this is important. You have got to organize your material well. People are more likely to remember if your material is organized well, things are repeated and all of this is accompanied by visual aid. We have been talking about reputation a lot. When we talk about repetition and you think about Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, that was strategic, it did not just happen. It was something that as planned into the speech to help the audiences retain what he thought was important and it really drew the audiences in. So remember that, I think that repetition is something that students are a little afraid of but it adds to the overall, just how well they relate to your speech. It is good to have something like a catch phrase for example. Alright, we mentioned something like connections and transitions between main points. This helps show your ideas and helps the listeners know what they really are. But also think about this, when you have these transitions in your speech, it makes you seem more organized. They are going to go along way with your grade; the teacher is going to think that this person really knows their stuff. That is going to be in your favor. So we have finished this, with connections and transitions a simple transition would be: now that we have covered the body of this speech we are going on to benefits of a well structured speech.
27:35- Slide 15
So the benefits of a well structured speech the audience can understand it better, you are going to feel less nervous and people are going to think that you are smarter. So pretty much everyone wins if you take the time to organize your presentation.
27:48- Slide 16
If visual aids are necessary, I am not going to spend a whole lot of time on this because I know that a lot of presentations don’t require visual aids but they can be useful. Like Heather said earlier, having something like a power point can be very useful to keep you on track. So that can be very helpful. Just remember with visual aids, the goal is to express your ideas and not to impress people so don’t get down in the artistic part; make sure that you stay functional. Think of it in these terms, if you had to go back to the show and tell days what would you show these people rather then tell them? Are you having trouble describing certain aspects of your presentation? Would it be easier to give them a picture or a diagram? If you want people to remember certain things just give people a list, they are more likely to remember stuff when they see it and hear it. So with a visual aid only have it out when you are discussing it and it is a good idea to not pass anything out until the presentation is over with.
28:41- Slide 17
So I guess now we need to talk about the conclusion of the speech, and one of our favorite comedians Mitch Hanne burger once said that as a performer you have got to start strong and finish strong. You can’t eat all of these pancakes at first because by the end of eating them you are sick of them. If you have ever eaten pancakes you know what he is talking about. So the conclusion, you want to make this short and sweet. And one thing that we talked about in the beginning is that people are going to have a tendency to remember the first thing you said and the last thing you said. So you don’t want to, even if you are out of time and have a timed speech, just because you have reached that time limit don’t say “well I’m finished now” or “I’ve reached my time limit so I’m done”. Really, you took the time to prepare it so make sure that you finish it. It is pretty easy, you can say something as simple as “in conclusion”. You have to be classy so just let the audience know that it is coming. Say the main points, use that repetition, put those important points in your audiences heads and make sure that the last thing you say raps up the speech but it kind of at the same time plants a seed in the audiences’ mind where they are going to keep thinking about the topic later on. Anything you need to get from the audience you can do in the conclusion so we won’t go over that. Once everything is over, just go on in the speech. Don’t pack up your stuff while you are concluding, that gives the audience the idea that you don’t want to be there and make sure that you said in conclusion, that you have a conclusion. Don’t fall in love with your voice that much, you have made a verbal contract with your audience, so wrap it up. Just stop talking, do not keep on rambling. Don’t apologize for things that you said because the audience probably didn’t notice the mistakes that you made anyway, and don’t bring up anything new. Studies actually show that if you bring up something new in the conclusion it is actually more confusing then helpful. So, just say your conclusion, wrap up your main points, say something cool and walk away like you did a good job. Even If you think you didn’t the audience probably thought you did better than you would believe. That sounds like a good way to end this, Klint. Ok, well then I hope that you found some interesting tips from us and we have enjoyed presenting this. If you have any other questions or would like to get in touch with us we are at the Commonwealth school. And again, I am Heather Strip and that was Klint Hanes so thank you for your attention.