I have taught for over 10 years, led more PD's than I care to mention, have spoken at national conferences, and led a science department through numerous meetings. These ideas are just some things that I have gathered throughout my career. I am far from a great speaker so I try to focus on the these things to increase my capacity and speaking skills.
  1. Try to be yourself as much as possible.
    • Have you ever had a conversation with someone (a colleague or a student) and then noticed a dramatic shift in how they talk when they present?
      • I never understood why many of us feel the need to change how we talk when we are presenting.
      • The most comfortable and clear way that you know how to talk is how you should present. You will feel more at ease while speaking and your audience will connect with you more through your realness.
      • I tend to be a little more on the informal side of things when I am talking. I use a lot of body language and focus on it being more of a conversation with the audience. I have found this to be much more effective than being prim and proper.
  2. Always start with your objectives. Always... even if it sounds awkward or that you are giving away most of the presentation.
    • Unless your presentation is meant to be like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, start with your objectives.
    • People need a reference point or context to any situation. They need an anchor or something that they can connect it to from previous experience or thoughts.
    • A good example of this is MOST people would rather read the synopsis of a movie before watching. I never understood this myself as the synopsis gives away almost half of the movie itself, but it helps people make sense of the imagery that is being presented in the movie.
      • Speaking should be the same way.
    • It just makes everything more clear.
  3. On that note, always end with your objectives as well.
    • I like to frame the objectives as a question before and after only during the after part, the audience should be able to answer the questions at least partially.
    • If they cannot answer the question, always try to blame yourself. Blaming the audience does nothing to make them learn the objectives more. Blame the things that you can control... your presentation.
    • Ending this way also turns the focus on the listener so that they can better articulate the ideas in their minds and possibly spread it to others.
      • Wouldn't it be great if after every presentation someone in the audience was able to go to another person and say "I just saw this awesome presentation on (whatever you objective was)"? This of course would be them essentially repeating how you ended the presentation.
  4. If you plan on having the audience write down any of the information that is presented, write it down yourself.
    • So many times, speakers presenting to students use slideshows with text on them and expect students to write down that information.
    • I find that writing it down with the students models how they can write notes using such things as arrows, diagrams, informalities, etc.
    • It makes the presentation more human and less technology-based. Learning is social after all.
  5. Never expect the audience to understand the data in an exact way.
    • Those details can be looked at some other time. A presentation is not meant for looking at specific numbers.
    • Instead, focus on trends, patterns, and generalities amongst what the data is saying.
    • Focus on what the data is saying and not the data itself.
  6. Sprinkle in some anticipated question rebuttals into the presentation.
    • This requires you pre-thinking about what those rebuttals might be.
    • Another good rule of thumb is wait for those rebuttals until the right time. It will force the audience to pay more attention to something that might not make any sense, but that the audience needs closure on.
  7. Know your time limits!
    • If people are motivated to be at the presentation, then speaking for an hour or less is completely fine.
    • However, if your audience is forced to be there, keep it less than 10-15 minutes of straight talking.
      • Break up the presentation with audience activities. It's especially good to have them talk with someone they do not know that is in their vicinity.
        • Nothing wakes people up like being social especially about their own ideas.
  8. Do not be afraid of your audience!
    • Most audience are friendly and do not try to make your life miserable.
    • If the audience asks hard questions, do not be afraid to say something like "I didn't think about it that way" or something to that effect. This also is related to the #1 tip about being yourself. This will sound more genuine if you really mean it.
    • You could also ask to speak with that person after the presentation to get more of their insight. They will most likely be honored by this and stop with any other hard questions since they can ask you later.

Like any advice, it is easier said than done. I struggle to follow all of these tips myself, but the goal to work on improving on them as much as I can. I hope they help!
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