Help! How do I give a presentation? Five takeaways from the CMWR’s workshop

9-giving-a-presentationLast week, we at the Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research hosted a workshop on classroom strategies for learners of English as an additional language.  We realized that a lot of the things that we talked about in the workshop—titled “Jump In, Speak Up, Stand Out!”—were just as important for, well, everybody else who has ever had to give a presentation.  So, here it goes:  5 things everybody can use from the workshop.

  1. Think of your audience when you write on your PowerPoint slides!  Use a font size that people can see, and remember that some fonts are smaller than others.  Never use smaller font than 16 pt. If your font type is swirly, it might not be the best choice for the person sitting at the back of the classroom.  If you want to be super awesome, use sans-serif fonts.  They’re easier to read from far away.
  2. Think of your audience when you format your slides!  Use graphs, charts, and pictures strategically—make a point without overwhelming your audience.  Avoid bright backgrounds; avoid bright text.  Avoid things that will make people wince, and remember that the projector might impact how dark or bright something is.  Put your text in bullet points, with no more than 4-6 per slide.  Use dynamic titles.  Which is better, “Help! How do I give a presentation?” or “Presentation Strategies”?
  3. Be aware of your body!  Do you sway when you talk?  Do you talk with your hands?  Do you walk around, or are you a tree in a pot?  You can use your body effectively during your presentation.  Use your arms to gesture at the screen, if you have one.  Move yourself towards the screen when you want to highlight something on your PowerPoint, and away when the focus should be on you.  Don’t sway, twirl your hair, gesture wildly about nothing or bite your nails.  Do be sure to look at people, move around, and use effective gestures.
  4. Be aware of your voice!  This is no time to speak softly and carry a big stick.  Be loud and proud!  Don’t make the guy at the back of the room lean forward and strain to hear you.
  5. Practice your presentation!  Practice in front of a mirror! Practice in the shower! Practice in front of other people (but not if you’re simultaneously practicing in the shower)!  Practice in the room you’ll be presenting in.  Practice pronouncing strange words and technical terms.  Practice with your PowerPoint.  Practice until you forget you were holding your notecards.  Are you ready yet?