Masterclass Presentations - Be the talk of the town

27th March 2009 at 00:00
Planning, preparation and pitch are crucial when giving a presentation to your peers. Just don't try to be funny

Think of all the times you've sat in slumbered torpor on an Inset training day, speculating in stage whispers about how miserable and boring the presenter's lessons must be. But for many of the teachers and ex- teachers who lead such sessions, presenting in front of their peers can be much more daunting than facing some of their tougher classes.

The first thing to bear in mind when planning a presentation is that the process is no different from preparing a lesson. You have to ask yourself one question: "How do I get someone else interested in this topic that I find so fascinating?" And, just like your lessons, if you don't find it fascinating, then learn to pretend so quickly.

There is, however, an art to wearing your learning lightly. Even though you know the absolute importance of your subject matter and are convinced that it will solve the school's problems at a stroke, you should never underestimate the importance of tone. Giving your audience space to reach their own conclusion will usually work where hectoring fails.

Above all, and especially when talking to serving teachers, you must be able to convince your audience that what you are telling them will make their working life simpler, easier and better. Simply acting as messenger for the latest pronouncement from Ofsted won't cut any ice with anyone and, as with any class, the shuffling and inattention will soon reveal as much.

When preparing your chosen or given topic, it's this relevance that you have to keep at the forefront of your thoughts. How will this new initiative help them to plan and prepare more efficiently? In what ways will it save that most precious of commodities in a teacher's life - time? What immediate problems in terms of pupil achievement or conduct will it solve? If what you say doesn't, in some way, begin to address these issues, then it's a racing certainty that you'll soon lose your audience.

When it comes to the actual tools of your presentation, there are a few further caveats. No matter how much of a technical wizard you happen to be, don't let that cleverness get in the way of what you are trying to say. Just as with your classes, always remember that electronic equipment, which tends to have a mind of its own, will let you down if it can, so always treble check it beforehand. And if you read from your PowerPoint slides, you deserve everything you get.

When it comes to jokes and quips, be careful. Judging the mood of your audience - as with your classes - is of paramount importance and a misdirected or misjudged comment, as hilarious as it was when you used it with your mates down the pub, can destabilise your whole presentation. Believe me - I speak as one who knows

Jon Berry is senior lecturer, curriculum research at the University of Hertfordshire Next week: Building community links.

Points to remember

  • Always remember what it's like to be a member of a captive audience.
  • You're exposing your competence to your peers: prepare yourself as thoroughly as you would for your most difficult class.
  • No one likes a know-it-all: wear your expertise lightly.
  • Convince your audience that what you are telling them will make life easier and better.
  • Think long and hard about including jokes.

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