How do I make 16/17 year olds into better presenters?
July 29, 2010 4:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I make 16/17 year olds into better presenters?

Aside from general hints and tips I'm looking for videos (available on the web) of good presenters, both in terms of their talk and their slide deck (if using one). I figure TED talks are probably a good resource, but there are hundreds of them; which TED talks are particularly good, from a quality-of-presentation point of view? It would help if the content of the talk is likely to be interesting to a 16/17 year old audience.

What online or paper resources on PowerPoint design are good? I know that there are significant advantages to a slideless presentation but PowerPoint is sort of mandated. I'm already familiar with Presentation Zen, the Extreme Presentation Method and these posts.

Also, if anyone has any updates to this question that I asked back in April 2009 about presentation controllers then I'd be grateful.
posted by alby to Education (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a blog article I wrote about doing technical presentations.

For this age group, I'd push for a few things: no script, slides that either show structure or help visualize, and no reading from the slides.

For additional rubric points, you might consider quitting the remaining students on learning outcomes.
posted by plinth at 4:52 PM on July 29, 2010

Check out this link:

Teachertube is a really good resource. Try searching through it.
posted by leeconger at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2010

Sorry, the link didn't post:
posted by leeconger at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

While Powerpoint might be a mandated portion of the presentation, I would stress using powerpoint as a tool, not as the centerpiece. The best powerpoint presentations I've seen have been when there was a technical issue, and the presenter was forced to, well, present, without powerpoint. Get the students to understand that they should be talking to the audience, not reading from a notecard. You need to show them how a good presenter knows their material, and has practiced it. Getting teenagers to understand the importance of clear, rehearsed, interesting speech is a challenge, but if you can give them some opportunities to see bad speeches in comparison with good, I think you'll have a better time stressing what can be done. When you do comparisons with good/bad presentations, take some time to have the students map out what presenters did right/wrong in their presentations, and ask them to apply what they've learned.

Also: no one should ever read aloud the text on a powerpoint slide. Text on a powerpoint slide should never approach paragraph length.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:55 PM on July 29, 2010

I attended the National Junior Leader Instructor Camp when I was in the Boy Scouts and staffing summer camps when I was about 15. The single biggest thing that affected presenting quality during that week was practicing giving presentations. Twice a day, everyone in our little group would get assigned a presentation topic, given some reading material on it, and we had to give a full presentation with visual aids to the group about 30 minutes later. There was no time to overly rehearse or script the presentation, all you had time to do was read up what you could, sketch some bullet point outlines, and wing it.

The winging it's the key part.

You can look at videos all day long of people giving good presentations, and nod your head and say "Yes, his body language is very relaxed and open! Her hands moving effectively engages the audience when she tells that anecdote! His pacing is excellent and he uses humor to get us interested!"

But the second you get up in front of a group, especially a peer group, all that goes out the window and you get reduced to a blubbering, fidgety, forgetful wreck of humanity.
The first time.
The second time, you sort of remember to maybe look up from your notecards. Or maybe you remember to move around a bit. You're still terrified of course, but you remember the last time, and you remember it wasn't that bad and it did end, and you see everyone else is bad at it too.
Then you start to have a bit of fun with it. Maybe you make fun of someone else's obvious nervous habit, and everyone laughs a little. Maybe your topic is so banally uninteresting that the only way to keep it fresh is for you to present it in the overblown manner of a spanish soccer commentator.

It really only took about 5 or 6 times before we started getting pretty good at them. The topics were irrelevant - we were practicing PRESENTING, not caring about the topics. The difference between day 1 presentations and day 4 was, well, night and day.

TLDR make them do a lot of presentations within a short time period. Have their peers grade them. Do it again many times.
posted by spatula at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make 'em watch videos of themselves presenting.

It's horrifying (to the tape-ee) but effective.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:09 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I recently attended a two day small-group training session with an excellent presenter who did, in fact, spend some time saying the same words as a appeared on her PowerPoint slides. The reason this worked is because the wording of the bullet points on the slides was far closer to typical spoken than typical written English. I suspect she'd actually taped herself presenting the material, then transcribed from the tape to make the slides.

Accompanying the session were printed handouts, with three slides down the left hand side of each page, each accompanied by ruled lines for notes on the right. Those of us who learn better just by reviewing what's been presented had everything we needed to do that, while those who prefer to take notes during the session were able to do so in a way that linked what they were writing back to what the presenter had presented.

PowerPoint was also not the only visual aid used - she broke the day up with movie clips as well. And she made no attempt to hide the fact that the PowerPoint stuff was coming from PowerPoint and the movies from Windows Media Player, or to conceal the Windows desktop as she flipped from one app to the other. Her presentation style was straightforward, not slick, and doubly effective for that.

As somebody who generally has this kind of reaction to PowerPoint presentations, I was impressed.
posted by flabdablet at 8:37 PM on July 29, 2010

I'm coming to this from a former-lawyer background, and from that place, I'd say that within the bounds of the "mandated," do your best to get them AWAY from powerpoint.

a) It's too easy to use as a crutch for lack of full preparation/oral skills;
b) It can tend to be distracting to the audience, who end up reading rather than listening; and
c) It's too easy to do them really really poorly.

You'll notice that lawyers and politicians -- those whose livelihoods most depend on being able to speak well to a crowd -- almost never use things like powerpoint.

For examples:

The best use of powerpoint I've ever seen is Larry Lessig's. Go look up a couple of his presentations on youtube. He has a unique and incredibly powerful style.

(I'm given to understand Steve Jobs presentations are also amazing, though I've never seen any myself.)
posted by paultopia at 11:43 PM on July 29, 2010

The thing that made the most impact on my presentation style was voice coaching. Learning to simplify the content and not make assumptions about what my audience knows helped as well, but most of all it was voice coaching. I find that the knowledge that I can fill a large room with my voice –and keep it up for an hour if need be– helps keep me relaxed.

I'm guessing from your profile that you're in the UK; if you memail me I'll send you a reference to the people who did the voice coaching for the group that I'm a part of.
posted by joeycoleman at 1:43 AM on July 30, 2010

I can remember the exact moment when I lost my fear of public speaking (although I was a little older than high school.) I looked at my friend in the second row, and he smiled at me and slightly nodded his head in encouragement. It was very subtle, but the effect on my confidence was huge.

So now when I assign presentations in my undergrad classes, I spend a little time discussing courteous audience behavior, and how important it is to be respectful and encouraging, and to try to look friendly and interested while your buddies are up there giving their speeches.

I really think that it helps the quality of the presentations, because the kids aren't so dang worried about screwing up in front of their friends.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:11 AM on July 30, 2010

I can remember the exact moment when I lost my fear of public speaking...
I don't remember the exact moment, but I remember the class. In 10th-grade English, we took turns giving a Shakespeare soliloquy, and I went last. So for nearly an hour I watched embarrassed kids fumble horribly though their turns, thinking, "I can do WAY better than that." And I did.

I still HATE public speaking. But for 5 or 30 minutes, or however long it takes, I can give a decent speech just by speaking clearly, smiling occasionally, and acting like someone with confidence.

So rather than just showing the class videos of guys giving a great speech, how 'bout showing a great one and a few terrible ones, and looking at why the bad ones are bad?
posted by coolguymichael at 12:38 PM on July 30, 2010

If there is a high school debate/forensics team, they should try joining that. There may not be Powerpoint slides, but being able to practice often in front of your peers and coach who are supposed to provide constructive feedback would go a long way.
posted by Seboshin at 4:24 PM on July 30, 2010

« Older Looking for a notebook computer with very small...   |   How do I set up a proxy server for China? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.