Thursday, January 2, 2014

To Present is to Succeed

The ability to present well in front of a small or large crowd is one of the most important skills one can have. Think about all of the successful people you know in any field and chances are, they are someone who presents well. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are on a lecture circuit, giving a sermon to hundreds of people, or a game show host. They come from all walks of life but the commonality between them all is, successful people are able to articulate their competency and the point they are trying to make well. These people can be shy, incredibly social, funny, or charismatic. It can be delivered in many different ways but their presentations are solid because they were trained and they practiced somewhere along the way to success.

This skill has never been more important than now to teach our students. In today's market, a college degree or training does not always equate to a good job and today's jobs are changing so rapidly that even specific training in a particular field can prove to be out dated quickly. So what does this mean for our students? It means they need presentation skills even more than we did at their age.

Our students should be able to stand in front of others confidently, while conveying to their audience that they know what they are talking about. And even if they don't, they need to display their passion, intelligence, competence, and eagerness to be successful. However, the old school presentation model will not work. You know what I am talking about; student stands up, opens the PowerPoint, reads the text flooded slide, and asks if there are any questions to the half asleep audience. This cannot continue.

We need to have our students research their topic well and take notes that will help them master the content they are reading. We should have them learn techniques to minimize text, maximize the effectiveness of their oral delivery, and engage the audience at a high level. In other words, we have to teach them how to sound and look like they know want they are talking about. It takes time, but there are not many skills that will be more relevant to our students.

The key to the best presentations is the passion behind it. The person speaking should be interested in the subject that they are speaking on. We must find topics and approaches that engage our students. If they make a connection to their topic, the crowd will pick up on it. Not all of the topics will be ground breaking but if we get our students to buy in, the practice will be more effective and lead toward building that classic passion filled delivery.

So, there is one missing piece from my advice. How do teachers refine their skills and become masters of the presentation? We must present in professional settings as often as possible. This could be in staff meetings, college classes, conferences, workshops, and community/school events. I believe that a staff who regularly presents professionally is a staff that preforms at a high level with their students.

In the era of increasingly available technology, we have to ask our students to present on a more regular basis whether big or small. We can't wait till the end of the year. It has to be part of our school and classroom culture. We should be asking them to present by themselves and with others. As a result, they will be able to market themselves more effectively as they enter he work place or apply for colleges. If we successfully implement the art of presenting and story telling in our classes, our students will be confident, competent, and bound for success. Leading is Teaching.

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