How to make POWER Points instead of PowerPointThomas Sauer

“Congratulations your proposal has been accepted.” After the initial excitement that one of your ideas has been recognized by your colleagues as interesting enough to be included in a conference program, you realize that now you have to put the actual presentation together.
And that’s when it sets in, you will be standing in front of an audience of your peers, having to share your deepest thoughts about your practice. What if they don’t think my ideas won’t work? What if I can’t explain what works so well in my classroom in a way that others will understand? What if someone asks a question that I can’t answer? What if ….
Feeling like an imposter is a natural part of presenting. While it is a natural feeling to have, please remember that the audience is incredibly thankful that YOU have chosen to share your ideas so that they may learn from you. Undoubtedly there will be a lively discussion around your ideas either immediately following your presentation, on social media, or in classrooms once participants return home. THANK YOU for contributing to that discussion.
While I have no magic formula to presenting, allow me to share my favorite tips that will help you deliver a memorable presentation at your next conference.

1. Tell a Story

Begin your presentation by framing your solution(s). Share a challenge from your own experience to outline the problem of practice that you noticed and begin to identify your key message. Having a key message will allow you to anchor the rest of your presentation. Why should anyone continue to participate in this presentation? What will be the most likely key takeaway for those attending your session?

2. Model what you preach

Presenting is Teaching! Participants must be able to experience the solutions you are offering. So, don’t just talk about your solution. Don’t just show them your solution. Instead, allow participants to learn about your solution while they are experiencing it.

3. Connect with the audience

If you treat participants like your students you will be able to make better connections with your audience. If there is someone you know in the room, use their name, or even better if you are familiar with their practice reference what they are doing. Don’t forget to look people into the their eyes across the entire room to make that extra connection. I know it’s scary having 30, 50, or even 200 pairs of eyes looking at you, but if you want them to listen, you have to see them first.

4. Provide time to process

You have so much to say during your presentation and the clock is ticking.  All too often presenter will forget to pause and allow the audience to process all the of the new information that was just shared. There are simple ways to help participants: build in wait time at key moments, repeat your most important points to ensure that everyone heard them, and once again implement activities that model processing input. Bonus points for providing the audience with some kind of note taking or processing tool that helps them capture what you are saying in their own words so that they can immediately process the new learning.

5. Design slides at the end

We have all become to dependent on presentation software. Most of the information should be coming out of your mouth and not described in the slides. The slides are just a summary (the key message) of what you are presenting. When you do design your slides, consider how to organize them thoughtfully. Think about what your slides will look like in a big room. Could you give the presentation without any words? Can you get rid of 75% the words and still get your message across. Images (and especially images from your own practice) can make some true POWER points.

6. Consider the audience's realities

Throughout your presentation don’t forget to acknowledge audiences realities instead of just sharing yours. Sure it might work in your classroom, but it might not work in anyone else because of so many factors. Allow yourself to be real with the audience. There is a real world outside of your presentation that cannot be ignored. “Hey, those elevators really made it hard for you all to get here on time.”

7. Plan logistics of the presentation

Consider the set-up of your presentation room and be prepared for a variety of scenarios. Will you be able to change how people are sitting in the room? Will you be able to easily create small groups for discussions or experiencing activities you are sharing? Consider where you are able to and will stand for your presentation. Are you able to see and hear and be seen and heard by everyone in the room? Have you ever seen yourself present? You might want to bring a friend with you who can help direct you to make sure that you are talking to all sides of the room. It’s so easy to get frozen next to the screen, behind the podium, or one one side of the room.

8. Ask reflection questions

Getting participants to think about their own practice is a great measure of a successful presentation. Help them by including thought-provoking questions at key transition points in your presentation. These questions will allow participants to challenge or affirm their beliefs and practices.

9. Forget about being perfect

Just like there is no perfect lesson, there is no perfect presentation. Just by going through the process of submitting a proposal, preparing your session, and delivering it, you have done more than many of your colleagues. As you finish, be open to being wrong and re-evaluating what you are presenting. Your audience might challenge you and that might just be the thing that will make you and even more effective practitioner.

10. Less is more

This is probably the hardest part for me, even as an experienced presenter. You don’t have to share EVERYTHING. It is much more important to share a few things in detail than many ideas without time to experience them, process them, and reflect on them. You can always come back next year and present again!

If you would like to hear more examples, you may want to watch this recording of a PEARLL webinar.