Chapter 4: page 33


person discussing while standing in front of a large screen in front of people inside dim-lighted room
Teemu Paananen on

Since you will be giving a presentation or two this semester in this class, I thought I would touch on it quickly here. I know that most of us do not enjoy presenting information in front of class. Yet presentations are part of the academic and professional worlds. And if you think about presenting like a performance, getting on stage in front of an interested and engaged audience, maybe that will help you find the process of preparing and presenting less daunting and maybe, a little enjoyable. Our beloved rhetorical triangle is helpful to use as we establish the rhetorical situation for the presentation and prepare it. Just like theatre, we have all endured painful presentations and experienced disinterested audiences. You can work together to make certain the presentations that you give and sit through are interesting, informative, and dynamic.

Please watch Presentations Good and Bad Examples (2.30 minutes).


How to engage your audience with your presentation

1. Prepare and practice

This is synonymous to an actor learning the lines of the play before venturing on stage. Go through your slides and read them aloud. This will ensure they make sense and represent your good work. Dress professionally and for comfort, so your audience takes you seriously and you feel confident in front of them. Practice out loud, and if you are presenting with a group, do so together. You are relying on one another’s professionalism and preparedness, which builds reciprocity that transfers to your audience.

2. Use simple slides or visuals as placeholders for your audience

Visuals help your audience follow along with the structure of your presentation and hold their attention. To do so, use few words and images on your slides to make a memorable impression on and engage your audience. Make slides with font and colors that are easily readable and cite your sources, even photographs (here is a link to find free stock photographs). Do not read from your slides, or give your audience too much to read either. No one likes a text bomb (but if have to make one, make an outline of it on the following slide to give your audience a sense of understanding and relief). Less is more.

3. Use note cards

Since William Shakespeare eloquently declared, “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players,” we encourage relying on brief notes to remind and help us keep track of our main ideas, and if necessary to relay the exact wording of a source. Using note cards enables us to face our audience rather than looking at the slides behind us and is more professional than looking on our phone.

4. Create a relationship with your audience

Part of building your credibility stems from your audience and your connection to one another, so give them your undivided attention. Introduce yourself and maintain eye contact. Be an active speaker by moving around in front of your audience and using open body language. Your listeners will connect with you and will be active, supportive listeners.

5. Begin and end strong

Just like with your essay, the introduction and conclusion of your work gain and hold an audience’s attention. So be creative and consistent. To begin, you might want to interact with your audience posing a question to which they respond individually or with a partner. Or you might tell a personal story that draws your audience into the topic and helps them connect with you. To conclude, since you are presenting, go over your main points. Or you may ask your audience to report your main points back to you to make your presentation more interactive. And go out in style by thanking your audience for their attention and inviting them to ask questions.

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new

Dalai Lama

How to be an engaged audience for your presenter/s

Since presenters are delivering information to an audience, the relationship is one of support. We want to build a supportive classroom community, so we have a responsibility to presenters as listeners.

Image Source: Mimi Thian on, @mimithian

Active Listening Activities

Activity One:

Directions: Please read and annotate (with “What Great Listeners Actually Do” by Joseph Folkman and Jack Zenger.

Activity Two:

Part One: Pair up with one or two other students, discuss the four qualities of a great listener.

Part Two: Using these principles of great listening, with your partner/s please do the following, taking turns being the listener and speaker (2 minutes minimum per speaker):

Speaker 1: Explain what topic you are deciding to write about for your presentation and then tell a rough version of the story you might tell the class as your presentation. If you want to, record this story so you can refer to it later.

Listener/s: Practice the four skills of great listeners and employ Folkman’s and Zegner’s five levels of listening by creating a safe environment for the speaker, clearing away distractions and maintaining eye contact with the speaker; think about what is being said, not how you will respond; empathize with and validate the speaker; interject to seek clarity, and after the speaker is done, interject some ideas about the topic that might be useful. All the while being supportive and not critical.

We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.

Activity Three:

Directions: Based on Folkman and Zegner and on your own experiences as an audience member and a speaker, with your partner/s look at the presentation assignment and create a list of the top 10 techniques you can use while presenting and listening to each other’s presentations. We will discuss these as a class and create the expectations for the presentations collaboratively.

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