The contents of this page originally appeared as a series of articles under the general title “Presentation Skills? Seriously?”n ELT News, between November 2012 and July 2013.
FOCUS ON ATTITUDES.
The main characteristic of human interaction, and presentations for that matter, is verbal communication. It covers just about all aspects of human activity: it is used to inform, to intimidate, to promise, to scare, to entertain, to threaten, and so on. Regardless of how much emphasis you have placed on technology to enhance your message, how much care you have invested in researching and preparing your content, how much attention you have paid to your gestures, your posture and your facial expressions, it all comes down to how you say it.
FOCUS ON ATTRIBUTES.
In addition to the preparation of the visual aids to be used in a presentation, it is equally important to pay attention to the presenter himself. In particular, we need to consider the non-verbal aspect of his performance: body language.
FOCUS ON BRANDING.
In the world today every person, every product, every service has a name. It is what distinguishes and differentiates each on from numerous others available. It is what we base our choice on, be it personal, professional or social. Even NO NAME products have a name. A name and a reputation.
FOCUS ON CONTENT.
A successful presentation, like a successful story, theatre performance, TV series or concert is all about the audience. The latter is defined as a group of people that sit and watch the presenter deliver. They may have turned up in order to be educated, informed or simply to be entertained.
FOCUS ON DESIGN.
A presentation aims at providing useful information to a group of listeners either within the context of an organization, i.e., a group of teachers within a school, or within the broader context of an event, i.e., a teachers’ conference. In the former instance, the speaker has a guaranteed audience. In the latter, the speaker needs to attract participants and compete with other speakers.
FOCUS ON DIGITAL COMPETENCE.
As early as 2000, European officials recognized the need to respond to globalization and a movement towards a knowledge-based society. In order to achieve that, the need was identified for a framework of basic skills that would function both as a measure of the level of proficiency in different areas pertinent to European citizens as well as a tool for setting goals for continuous personal development and lifelong learning.
FOCUS ON DIGITAL STORYTELLING.
Telling a story has been used almost since the beginning of time as a means for sharing and interpreting experiences, as a means of instruction, as a means of transferring knowledge from the expert to the novice. It is universal, it is engaging, it is effective, it is relevant, it is personal. And it is making a comeback as a 21st century educational technique by taking advantage of the digital possibilities available.
FOCUS ON SOFTWARE.
An integral part of preparing and carrying out a presentation has to do with the selection of the appropriate software. Most of us would tend to use what is readily available: the software that is installed on the computer we use. This fact, however, should not deter us from exploring other choices that are available. There are a number of criteria we can use in making a choice, i.e., personal preferences, expert knowledge, intended audience, content and use of the presentation, desired effect, etc.
FOCUS ON STORYTELLING.
Presentation is defined in the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary both in terms of “showing” and “talking”. The former refers to the way something is shown to people; the latter refers to a talk giving information about something. In short, a presentation uses images and words to deliver content, pretty much like a story.
FOCUS ON STRUCTURE.
A presentation aims at providing a visual point of reference during your talk. This is meant, among other things, to help your audience focus on a particular point you are making, build on ideas they are familiar with, follow the structure of your talk, relate to new information offered and understand the points you are making.