October 2010

The know zone

  • Who's the boss?
    A disciplinary issue involving a school leader highlights important questions about the respective legal responsibilities of governors and local authorities, says Richard Bird. More
  • Your number's up...
    While no one likes to consider the prospect of redundancy, there are measures you can take to ensure that your finances are in the best possible state should the worst happen. More
  • Recipe for success
    Sam Ellis invites ASCL members to submit their own data and experiences to help provide the coalition government with expert guidance as it cooks up new ideas for education. More
  • Personnel shopper
    After working in transport, retail and local government, Tracy Nash is now personnel manager at Horbury School in Wakefield and a training consultant for ASCL. A food and wine enthusiast, she and her friends recently staged their own version of the TV show Come Dine with Me. More
  • The great call of China
    The British Council is inviting students to enter a Mandarin speaking competition and schools to apply for funding to develop partnerships between China and the UK. More
  • Lost in translation?
    The government is reviewing the teaching of languages in schools following a continued decline in the numbers taking modern foreign languages at GCSE. So what should be the future for languages in schools? More
  • Friends, romans, citizens... lend me your presentation techniques
    LEADERSí SURGERY: The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Filing down bureaucracy
    Proposals to reduce bureaucracy were at the centre of debate at ASCLís September Council meeting, as was ensuring fairness for all in the education system as the academies programme begins to gather steam. More
  • To 'B' or not to 'B'?
    While the Secretary of Stateís announcement of an English Baccalaureate could have signalled a move towards a broader, freer curriculum, the current proposal is a performance measure rather than a new qualification, says Brian Lightman. More
  • Band on the Run
    Leaders of schools and colleges have a lot in common with leaders of rock and roll bands, says Ziggy Flop, just not the sex, drugs and rockíníroll. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from John Fogerty, Robert Yates, Teddy Roosevelt and Rosalyn Carter. More
  • Engaging with all students
    Many teachers have taught year 11 pupils who fail to engage in learning or are consistently disruptive in class. More
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LEADERSí SURGERY: The antidote to common leadership conundrums...

Friends, romans, citizens... lend me your presentation techniques


Iíve been asked to present the results of a research project as a workshop at a national conference. While Iím very happy standing in front of a class of 16 year-olds, the thought of speaking in front of a group of adults fills me with dread Ė Iím afraid Iíll bore them to tears. What can I do to make my presentation more interesting?


"There are always three speeches... The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave,Ē said the American motivational speaker Dale Carnegie in the 1930s.

We have all sat through our fair share of tedious presentations and it is human nature to worry that your audience wonít be interested.

An engaging presentation has as much to do with delivery as content. When you start to prepare your speech, think of it as telling a story. People like stories, even sophisticated, educated people. They want to know what happens next, so theyíll keep listening. And from your point of view telling a (true) story means rooting your presentation in reality: you can put forward real examples to illustrate your presentation; you can show pictures of real people and places; you can talk about real issues.

One of the biggest enemies of effective communication is the tendency to talk in the abstract. Better one case history than a score of hypotheses and statistics.

People are good listeners when a subject engages them, but thereís only so much the mind can absorb in a single sitting. Your audience has no chance to go back and re-read what youíve just said if they didnít understand it fi rst time round.

As a general rule most presentations would benefi t from being cut in half Ė less unnecessary information to confuse the audience; less chance of overrunning; more opportunity for questions. Work out the essential points you want to convey and stick to that: be ruthless in cutting out digressions, unnecessary detail and redundant background.

Then say what you have to say simply and clearly. Even if youíre speaking to educationalists, try to avoid jargon and long words. If youíre working from a script rather than improvising, write short sentences.

A dialogue is always more interesting than a monologue. As you would do in a classroom, try to involve your audience, invite them to share their experiences. Pose questions; present them with dilemmas and ask their opinion on possible solutions.

Finally, as with students, signposting clearly will help them to stay with you. Tell your audience what youíre going to say at the start, highlight crucial steps in the argument or turning points in the narrative, and end with a brief summary. Donít be afraid to repeat important points to make sure people have understood them properly.