How to ace my test tutor audition!
November 16, 2009 2:31 PM   Subscribe

What is a good topic that can be presented easily and engagingly in 5-10 minutes? Also, what are some good presentation tips?

I'm auditioning to be a tutor/teacher with the Princeton Review in a few weeks. They're asking us to give a 5-10 minute presentation on a (preferably non-academic) topic where we demonstrate our classroom manner. They say they specifically would like us to use the whiteboard and get the "classroom" (a group of our fellow presenters) interacting.

What are some ideas of topics I could present? I was thinking perhaps "how to win a game of tic tac toe" but I'm not sure how well I could incorporate classroom interaction. On the other hand, I'm worried about presenting in a way that requires interaction but having a reserved sort of crowd and having it fall flat (which seems possible - they'll be a) nervous and b) competition).

Also - I've given presentations and taught classes before, but the idea of auditioning for a job has me nervous. What are good ways of projecting a calm, confident aura and what are telltale signs of nervousness I should look to avoid?

Help, Hivemind?
posted by danceswithanonymity to Work & Money (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm having trouble of thinking of a topic, but I'll give you some general tips for presenting:

1. The easiest way to project a calm, confident aura is to practice, practice, practice! Seriously, make sure you start practicing at least a couple of days before the talk (you don't want to be up late the night before getting last minute shit together because being exhausted the next day won't bode well for you). Practicing will make you confident because you won't be surprised by yourself: you know exactly what you're going to say. I recommend practicing at least one time in front of someone you trust to get feedback.

2. Engaging the crowd is always difficult. Obviously ask them open-ended questions and be responsive and encouraging when they answer (even if their answer is stupid) so that they don't feel intimidated by speaking up. If you just can't get them to engage, you can call people out: sucks for them, necessary for you. You could also always try to bribe them into responding, by bringing in mini-candy bars and throwing them to people that speak up, etc. Or, you can incorporate a multiple choice quiz into your talk to get people to respond.
posted by sickinthehead at 2:38 PM on November 16, 2009

When I took a teaching assistant training class a while ago, we had to do similar short presentations.
One person presented vedic maths, and it still sticks in my mind as a set of neat math tricks I'd never heard of before.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2009

What are you good at? Do you know self defense? Juggling? Yo yo? Cooking? Pick a topic you're comfortable with and know inside and out so you don't have the added challenge of teaching yourself the material. If you tell us what you know, it'll be easier to suggest specific topics.
Something physical is good because it's an easy way to get people involved. Don't stress too much about the other people in the audition -- when I was doing this, the other people were always friendly and supportive, even though we were technically in competition.
With tic tac toe, you could have them play a game or two of tic tac toe (either 2 people get up and play, or they call out which move and you mark it on the board), then teach them a tactic or two, then play another game where they implement the tactic (eg, you're X, they're O, and you have them defeat you by using what you've taught).
posted by katemonster at 3:09 PM on November 16, 2009

Are you into any sports? Usually a basic sports concept (or play) can be taught with a combination of white board and people interaction really well.

When I coached water polo I would explain the play on a whiteboard then have the team walk through it on the deck standing, I'd think this would work well for something like "setting a pick" in basketball.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2009

I'm a nerd, so a lot of the things I'm knowledge about are academicky - psychology, history, politics, etc. I also know a lot about baseball, baking, monkeys, board games, programming, black holes.
posted by danceswithanonymity at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2009

Whatever you do, don't read a PowerPoint presentation.

How about a presentation about giving an awesome presentation?
posted by dzaz at 3:43 PM on November 16, 2009

I also know a lot about baseball

Explain all the ways a runner can reach first base. Have the class submit their own answers, then expand from there. For example, the class will likely say "hit" and "walk," but not many will know "catcher drops third strike" or "batted ball hits a runner" and all the other weird variants that are technically possible.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:08 PM on November 16, 2009

If you have 6 minutes 40 seconds then you could give your presentation in a Pecha Kucha format. The idea is to create a Powerpoint presentation of 20 slides each of which is set to auto-advance after 20 seconds. The attraction about this approach is that it is very hard to bore the audience: if you do a great job of the presentation then they will love it; if you screw up the timing then that will be amusing, if you are verbose or dull then they will enjoy watching you get kicked on by the timer.

In terms of what to actually say here are a couple of ideas:
1. Tell the audience about an interesting psychology experiment. Bonus points if you involve them in judging something, giving an opinion, etc.
2. Give the audience an acronym then explain its meaning. I once gave a 5 minute talk on the meaning of "MIRPDANIO" which the way mariners are sometimes taught to remember how to send a mayday radio signal.
posted by rongorongo at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2009

I recently had to do this as part of a teaching certificate training for my Ph.D. program. We were asked to pick something outside our subfield, but still academic and something that you would expect college students to want/need to know. I taught on how to use footnotes. I think practical skills like that are pretty easy to teach and come up with exercises for to include participation. We only had five minutes for our presentation - try not to pack too much information into those five minutes and don't use a powerpoint.
posted by quodlibet at 4:43 PM on November 16, 2009

Hah, Cool Papa Bell, I had exactly the same idea. Bonus is you can use the whiteboard to draw a baseball diamond and use it in your explanations to demonstrate your use of whiteboard.

Another idea would be to identify a couple of psychology tricks (eg, cold reading or magic stuff) -- demonstrate them in action, then explain the psychological principle behind it.
posted by katemonster at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2009

The awesomeness of your idea matters less than how you handle it: are you funny, engaging, getting the audience to participate, keeping calm if something goes wrong, etc. When you're teaching Princeton Review classes, they give you all the materials, syllabuses, lesson plans, etc, so they're really trying to evaluate your ability to deliver their lesson plans in an engaging manner.

I think the tic-tac-toe idea is good, especially with katemonster's idea of pairing them off to use techniques you're teaching. The problem might be that most people are pretty familiar with tic-tac-toe strategy - what about a paper-and-pencil game that's unfamiliar to most people? You could teach the game, pair off for a practice round, then solicit some strategies from the audience. You can use the whiteboard to list the suggestions, and add any additional of your own. I just googled for paper-and-pencil games and found Sprouts, which looks interesting. Also, it would be great if you could practice on some friends first, to make sure it all goes alright and the timing works out.

Since you're nervous about the audience participating, pairing them off is nice because they don't have to speak up, they just have to work with one other person. If they're unwilling to speak up about strategies, you're ready with your list.
posted by periscope at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2009

Haha, as soon as I saw this question I knew it was for one of those test prep jobs. I have backed out of interviews for those several times (because I couldn't think of a good presentation topic--should have thought of metafilter)!
Reading these, there are a lot of good suggestions, but I like Cool Papa Bell's most for its concreteness and ability to be explained specifically using visual aids.
posted by ishotjr at 5:23 PM on November 16, 2009

I actually like the tic tac toe idea. I did two presentations to try to get a job at The Princeton Review, one was "how to drive cross-country" and one was "How to season a cast iron pan" Pretty sure I got the job because of the second one, and because I brough ttwo cast iron pans [one seasoned, one not seasoned] to the interview with me on the bus.

You can have people in the group basically take turns playing with you or choosing the next turn and you can sort of talk through a game and how to always either win or draw. It's a nice topic because it's finite, makes you seem smart but not braggy, and at the end of it the message is "hey anyone can learn these techniques and do better" which really is what TPR is talking about in general.

They'll probably try to throw you a curve ball while you're teaching if you're good at this like "hey isn't this cheating?" or I'm not sure what else. You can basically have a little decision tree

- how to play basically
- what to do if you go first
- what to do if opponent goes first [have opponent from audience]
- what do do next if scenario A
- what to do next if scenario B

And you can have everyone in the audience take a turn making one move instead of playing one opponent. This will show you engaging with the whole class [i.e. not just talking to the person who is easy to talk to] and taking turns and spreading the lesson out which is also useful.

Don't be too nervous, make sure you have your timing decent [i.e. be within about 15-20 sec of the time and wrap up quick if you go over] and try to roll with the punches. Good luck. I really enjoyed teaching with TPR when I worked there.
posted by jessamyn at 5:29 PM on November 16, 2009

I had to do this in a pre-service teaching course. In five minutes I taught some basic letters and sign language used by deaf people. Then got pairs to sign to each other some simple phrases. It worked really well, although I was teaching it to 13 year old students.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2009

I had to do this very thing for Kaplan and asked the students to write directions--every single step to making a peanut butter sandwich--then read back their steps as I followed them. Not one could do it. (HOLD DOWN THE JAR, WHILE YOU TURN THE LID!) Now that I've blown that topic on AskMe, find something like that. It's a useful little writing exercise.
posted by Elsie at 7:22 PM on November 16, 2009

Baking is harder to talk about in an interactive way than some other cooking topics, unless you're really into the chemistry involved and could field a wide variety of answers pretty easily. On the cooking idea, though, something like "how to make chicken noodle soup" could be pretty interesting, though. Present a list of ingredients, then discuss things like "should we cook the onions first, or just drop them in raw?" or "what shape noodles would be best and why?" or "how do we find out how much salt and pepper to put in?"
posted by aimedwander at 8:18 PM on November 16, 2009

You can find a lot of excellent talks at TED, all under 20 minutes.
posted by leigh1 at 3:14 AM on November 17, 2009

One further idea whilst we are talking about those which could involve the audience:
1. Ask each person to envisage somebody that they know very well.
2. Get them to quickly choose 3 adjectives to best describe this person and write them down.
3. Choose somebody from the crowd and ask them to read out just the adjectives to the rest of the class.
4. Ask the class to vote on whether the person being described is male or female. Repeat with a small number of other volunteers.

The surprise is usually that it tends to be very easy for the general audience to determine the sex of the person being described. The terms people use to describe others tend to be very gender specific.
posted by rongorongo at 4:56 AM on November 17, 2009

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