Making Presentations – Openings

I used a part (up to 1:54) of the video below recently to review what makes an effective opening when making presentations. The whole class discussion lasted maybe 10/15 mins (this was a review session) but this could easily be extended by having the class discuss the question in pairs then whole class feedback and/or if you played the video up to 6:18 mark.* Indeed for engineering and computer science students one could extend the video up to the 11.05 minute mark.**

The question I asked was : What do you think I like about this opening?
Video: Ang Cui and Michael Costello’s Hacking Cisco Phones talk at the 29th Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin Hamburg

The discussion should hopefully center around the following:

  • the presenter clearly gave topic of talk
  • he let the audience know what’s in it for them
  • he clearly stated why he is talking about it
  • he used humour

I reminded students of the attention vs time curve:

Self reports of Attention vs time for note taking students Hartley J and Davies I β€œNote taking: A critical review” Programmed Learning and Educational technology, 1978,15, 207-224

(or primacy/recency memory effects) they had looked at in the earlier part of this presentation course and noted that at the beginning all one needs really is an organised opening to make sure the audience will keep on listening. Though attention evoking techniques such as the humour the presenter in the video used is, of course, a bonus.

Students may also comment on the slides and one would need to fast forward to about the 3 minute mark to clearly show how this presenter used watercolours to make his slides stand out. My students also commented on the dynamism of the presenter.***

When talking about the /what’s in it for me?/ aspect I used the acronym WII-FM and the analogy to the radio the audience is tuned into (after 4 ways to move people from attention to engagement).

Hope you enjoyed this, and would be greatly interested to read about other presentation review ideas.

* this part of the talk again illustrates the presenter using humour to engage his audience which certainly works since he gets the laughs.

** there is computer science lexis here which maybe more useful in a non-presentation focused lesson

*** there is an interesting effect when the first presenter hands over to the second, which is I think due to the second presenter making more umms and errs and having a more monotoned voice as well as being less animated/dynamic. Though he does get better as he goes on but the effect is very noticeable – watch after the 11.05 minute mark.


2 thoughts on “Making Presentations – Openings

  1. Very interesting talk and interesting intro to the talk to. I really like the hand drawn, watercolour pictures for it.

    One noticeable issue with the second presenter is he over uses “so” and “well”, common time buying devices. Ironically this is usually the type of vocab that I find students don’t pick up or use. It could even be a way to draw their attention to such features of language.

    Presentation skills are a tricky one for me as I wonder how much we need to teach “presentation skills” that you would a native speaker as well as English for presentation skills such as vocab for introducing slides, connecting items during the talk. It depends on the students needs and situation (if they are familiar with vocab then general skills may be more useful, if they are a confident presenter in their L1 they may be more aware of presentation skills, though conventions may differ)

    Having said all this I haven’t personally had many students who need presentation prep…yet.

    1. hi chris, very true about the over use of ‘so’, thanks! i think the fact that he gets better over time maybe indicates that he was maybe quite nervous following the first presenter who seems to have a natural flair for presenting.
      for my current presentation course the students have an intermediate level of english, so a lot of the issues involve delivery (pausing,intonation, emphasis), signposting language, engaging audience.
      thanks for commenting!

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