A few weeks ago, I put up two posts on how to give a presentation. Those posts came from a handout that I use when I talk to college students.
Next week, I'm giving the same workshop for 5th graders. I reworked my handout for them, and I thought I'd share it here as well. In some ways, it's a better handout, because it's shorter, clearer, and to the point. Maybe there's something to be learned there.
Tell your audience a story
When I do a presentation, I like to think about it as a story. A good story captures the audience’s imagination. A really good storyteller tells the story in such a way that their audience has all the information they need to follow the plot. They introduce all their characters. They tell you where the story is set. The action is logical and you can follow the plot easily. And a good story has a satisfying ending.
Good storytellers ALWAYS keep their readers in mind. They will tell the story differently for little kids, for older ones, and for adults.
As a presenter, you need to do the same thing. Before you begin, ask yourself, Who is my audience? How much does your audience know about what you’re talking about? If this is all new to them, you’ll need to provide more background right at the beginning.
Beginnings, middles, & ends
Like a good story, every presentation has a beginning, middle, and end that serve very different functions.
The beginning of a story gives you and your audience a common ground and shared experience. In a book, the author uses it to provide a setting and to introduce the main characters. It also sets the whole story in motion by having a conflict or task that hooks you into the story.
In a talk, you would use it to tell the audience what your topic is (the characters), why the topic is interesting or important (the conflict and setting), and what the main ideas are you’ll be talking about (the characters’ characteristics and personality).
The middle of the story is where most of the action occurs. It’s here where you develop the shared information that will move the plot forward. In a presentation, these are your main ideas: What are the facts? What are intellectual puzzles you’ve grappled with? What evidence are you bringing to bear on them? These are the complicated ideas that you want to make sure everyone understands.
There are two steps in writing a good middle.
That last question is really important. If you gave a talk to your little brother or sister – someone who knows NOTHING about your topic – could they understand your story?
The climax of the story is when you solve the problem you laid out. In a presentation, it’s where you make it clear why what you’re talking about is really exciting and important.
The resolution of the story is where you tie up loose ends.
Feeling Nervous? Remember: it’s not about you.
Everybody gets nervous before they present. It’s natural. There are three really important things to remember that will help will your nerves:
How to Approach the Task
Worried about what you’ll look like?
Lots of people worry about what they look like in front of the audience. Other people don’t think about it at all. You need to strike a balance. Again, the most important thing is to think about it from your audience’s perspective.
Choose simple clothes. When you’re presenting to an audience, choose clothes that are comfortable and fit into the sitting. Don’t wear something distracting. If you’re giving a talk about an international aid organization who works on disaster relief, don’t distract your audience by wearing a funny t-shirt from your favorite band.
Avoid annoying mannerisms. Flicking your hair over your shoulder, saying ‘um’ or ‘like’, or picking your ears all take away from the group’s focus on the ideas.
You will do GREAT if you focus on these three things. Really.
© 2010 Nancy Darling. All Rights Reserved