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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Presentations: top tips to engage your audience

As schools utilise in-house expertise, teachers are not only educating children and young people - but colleagues too. 

What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?

-Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve seen poor presenters with great content and slick presenters with poor content – never be taken in by presenting style.

A confident approach may help to engage the audience but content will always be king. The volume of a message is no indication whatsoever of its quality.

Creating your presentation slides

First things first, the initial points below may seem obvious but they still trip up many a presenter so are worth a reminder.

  • Use slides to support what you say rather than prompt what you say. Contrary to what some may believe, it’s fine to read from slides occasionally as long as that’s not all that happens in your presentation! Your slides help to visualise key points so think carefully about how you use this resource.
  • Use minimum text per slide. Avoid paragraphs. Bullet points or short statements are best if you do use text.
  • Think about the font you use. Sans serifs such as Helvetica or Calibri are generally thought to be easiest to read on screen.
  • Make sure your slides are clutter free. Plain, light background with dark text is usually best.
  • Give slides a consistent look. Each one is part of a bigger story.
  • Use animations with caution. Your audience simply wants great content delivered with confidence and authority. Gimmicks can grate.

Delivering your presentation

When it comes to presenting, the following reminders may help.

  • Write a script if it helps, and give yourself time to rehearse. There’s no need to be word perfect, but being familiar with what you want to say will help confidence levels. Be aware though, that the need to deviate from your script will inevitably arise particularly in response to questions.
  • Pay attention to your presentation style. How do you tend to stand, use your hands and move around? How about tone of voice, inflection, pace etc.? It can be helpful to be filmed so you can observe your performance through the eyes of your audience.
  • Give your audience key learning points. Reiterate them so there’s no doubt over what you want to convey. Too often presentations lack this degree of clarity. You don’t have to deliver countless gems or insights. Just a small number of learning points will be sufficient and will help to keep your presentation focused.
  • Bring the audience into your presentation through questioning and discussion points.
  • Allow time for questions. I prefer to do this at regular intervals throughout a presentation as questions then relate to what has recently been discussed but some prefer questions to be saved until the end. Decide what works best for you.
  • Watch colleagues do presentations. What works? What doesn’t work? What can you learn from others?

One criticism often levied at slide presentations is that they may eliminate the opportunity for anything other than surface learning. Although slide presentations help to tell a narrative they may also support the learning of underlying structures that take learning deeper.

In short, it’s not what presentation tool you use, it’s how you use it.

Use your new presentation skills to deliver outstanding training in house. Check out our library of ready-made, editable training courses and presentations.  Get in touch to request a demo of Optimus In-House Training.

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