Ciara Byrne of Fast Company has compiled several tips from speaker and author Nancy Duarte about helping speakers make technical material more engaging for their audience. While these tips are great for a class full of business or science majors, they would apply equally to any public speaking classroom where students are falling into a pattern of dull speeches.
Some of the tips I found most compelling:
- Avoid PowerPoints full of bullets. Tell a story with a hero — and the hero is not the speaker but the audience.
- The audience is there to hear you speak, not to have the slides speak for you.
- Create contrast. When something changes in your presentation, the audience is re-engaged.
The story also has some good examples to share with a technical-minded audience.
If you have a class of science or business majors, this could be a chance to create an in-class activity (or longer homework assignment) as well. Give students a transcript of a dull grant-request presentation, for example, and have them look for ways to apply some of these suggestions. A failed bid from a “Shark Tank”-type of television show could work.
This brief article at the Smarta blog features five tips specifically for online presentations. This would be great to share with an online class or a business communication class (Smarta’s focus is advice for startups).
The article features advice from Spencer Waldron from Prezi UK, and has very practical suggestions like:
- when you can’t engage the audience in person, the part your voice plays becomes more important;
- consider the background, lighting and props — make sure you stand out.
One more from the Prezi.com blog…this one is written by Prezi’s CEO Peter Arvai. In this post, Arvai talks about “Shattering the Perfection Myth” in group leadership. He gives several examples of strong leaders who share struggles, talk about their failures, and highlight team members who tried something new, even if their plan did not succeed as hoped.
These examples give a depth to explaining leadership that is often missing from an overview textbook. There is a colorful Prezi attached to the article, though it may be difficult to use as a visual aid in class because the frames are a bit cluttered.
While not all of the advice might be appropriate for a classroom speech (like #8, bring on another speaker) there is a lot of great advice here, both for student speakers and for instructors seeking to make class more engaging. For students, I would emphasize the points about asking questions, using videos, giving the audience mental breaks, and telling stories.
In addition, at the end is a link to the next post in the series “How to Deal with an Unresponsive Audience” that also has some nice advice.
The Prezi blog features a guest presentation from James White of Media First called “How to Rock a Presentation When you Can’t See Your Audience.”
The article features five tips specifically for recorded or online presentations. In addition to written advice, there is a short Prezi slideshow with videos and graphics that would make a great visual aid to use in class.
This would be a great addition to an online class that might require such presentations as part of class or for a business communication class where students would surely be required to do them in the future.
The Fast Company web site offers “4 Common Vocal Mistakes Leaders Make.” This interview with Vocal Impact Productions founder Laura Sicola describes four mistakes that speakers can make with their voice that can undermine their credibility and make their carefully prepared message harder to follow.
The mistakes — like sounding uninterested in their own message — are all things students are at risk of doing during speeches.
The article would be great supplemental reading, especially for a business communication class, about why students should be working to break these bad habits early. The article’s final suggestion — practice the tone you want to have and record it to see how you are doing — can be great advice for students planning careers with a lot of speaking responsibilities.