When I am asked to present, I am often asked to provide my materials ahead of time for the conference committee to preview or to put in a file for participants. I gladly provide them with my materials, but then usually get a call. Often, the presentation that I send doesn’t make sense to the people who are previewing it. They often call and ask for me to send my notes along as well. This is when I politely, but firmly tell them “no”. Yes, I want to present for their group and assist their educators in understanding my materials, but no, I will not provide the verbatim information that I am going to be sharing.
This seems contradictory. After all, how are people supposed to walk away with anything if they don’t have exactly what you said with them in the end? But I don’t buy into that. I have developed a great method for presenting and sharing information over the years; it’s part of what makes me a great teacher and I’m going to offer you the exact recipe for that method here today. It’s why yes means no.
Present – Don’t Read
The first thing to remember about any presentation is that it’s an outline. Whatever you develop, whether it be a powerpoint (yuck) or a prezi or a blog, it’s there as an outline for you to do your thing. Once you stand in front of a group, use each piece of your presentation as a starting point for the true bulk of your information. People will never engage with you or truly learn that material you are presenting if you make them read it. If you walk in and have your information in bullets on some slides, what gives people any incentive to listen to you? They can read it and then zone out. Instead, create a great presentation with….
On each slide, choose an anecdote, comic or big idea to get you started. Often, I use a particularly relevant comic to the overall idea of my slide to get people interested in my information. It pulls them in, loosens them up, and prepares them to trust me as a presenter. It also connects my ideas and information with something memorable, so when they leave my session I know they will walk away with something tangible in their minds.
Choose a Theme
This is some of the most fun that I get out of creating presentations. Each one that I do has a theme around it, which I stick to. I’ve done things like building a custom car to talk about creating an Arts Integration program, using Sesame Street characters to describe the personalities in a building, or even using different cameras and lenses to describe how to change perspective. Whatever theme you choose, stick with it throughout your presentation as a common thread that ties everything together.
For me, I always budget one slide for every 2-3 minutes. So if I’m giving a 60 minute presentation, that’s 20 slides MAX to leave room for questions. And remember – each slide will only have big ideas and an engagement item (picture, comic, video, etc) so that you can really delve into your information and get the audience listening. This way, you can be assured of garnering some high-quality questions and feedback at the end.
In my presentations, I usually also allot some time for my participants to DO something. Whether it be an empathy map to think about the information from a different point of view, a gallery walk where people share their ideas on post-it notes throughout the room, or some simple Arts Integration strategies such as call and response or mirroring, I get all of my participants to do a low-risk activity to interact with my information throughout the session.
And that’s it!
I keep my presentations fairly simple but crammed with a lot of information. This method works so well at engaging each person with the information, making it personal to them while at the same time, ensuring that I am more than a bland powerpoint. I get to be the person that fosters their active learning of my material. Which means I will say Yes…and No…every single time.
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.