I recently taught a series of lessons on presenting. As is normal with such themes, the group then went away and prepared their own presentations which they delivered the following week – all barring one learner; alas we ran out of time and so of course he was offered the opportunity to do it in the next lesson. The following week I was surprised to see two new people (interns who were new to the company) enter the room – they had already been tested but weren’t scheduled to join the group until the following week. No matter, I thought, the more the merrier. I duly began the lesson and after the warm-up announced that as Tim (not his real name) hadn’t had the chance to present last week, we would begin with his presentation. Tim then stood up and presented a real live project that he is currently working on to the group (powerpoint and all). There were only two problems; his presentation lasted for over an hour, and was of no interest to any of the people listening whatsoever!
Perhaps I should clarify here that Tim was talking about setting up in an internal IT system for ordering software and hardware and the audience consisted of the two interns, a woman responsible for communication in the same department and a guy responsible for data protection. Throughout the presentation Tim kept stopping and asking for questions – there were none. What’s more, by the end he had stopped looking around the room and trying to engage the audience and was instead looking straight at the only person still paying attention – me.
After the lesson was over I reflected on what had gone wrong, especially as the previous week the presentations had gone down very well – lots of questions and post-presentation discussion. In the end I came up with a list of points that I will use in future in order to prevent this happening again. See what you think of my list and if you have any suggestions of your own then feel free to share them with me.
– Limit the time the learners are allowed to present for and stick to it.
– If you know the theme of the presentation, prepare questions in advance for the other learners to ask. Alternatively, ask the presenter to state at the beginning of the lesson what their theme will be and then give the others in the group a few minutes to think of potential questions. This also gives the people presenting a moment to prepare themselves.
– If the topic seems very specialized try to broaden the theme so others can comment on it e.g. when talking about an internal IT system for ordering, you could ask about learners’ experiences with and feelings about systems such as Amazon or ebay, to enable comparisons to be drawn.
– Get learners to comment on presentations based on their own job perspective e.g. I could have asked the communication woman how she would have communicated this idea across the company or asked the data protection guy about possible security issues.
– Before listening to the presentation, allocate tasks to the individual learners e.g. one listens for grammar mistakes, another focuses on how transitions between slides are handled, another looks at the layout and language of the slides, another looks at the body language of the presenter.