September 13, 2015 by helenwaldron
Why are so many people so terrified of giving presentations? I’ll tell you why, it’s because presentations demand The Full Monty. Unlike a safe old written report they don’t just need good and clear content, they expect you deliver it yourself, stuck out there in front of rows of silent people, feeling you’re being judged on your voice, clothes, body language, age, race, and … well… soul. And now TED.com has penetrated every English class as the way to present (sometimes forgetting it’s actually only one – mainstream, celebrity, Anglo-Saxon -way), you’re not just expected to inform or persuade, but to entertain too.
Added to that they can be important. They may give the relative newcomer an early chance to perform in front of the boss. In short, presentations are the business equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing, you do well at whatever you’re good at doing and then suddenly they expect you to dress up in funny costumes and dance with your arms and legs in perfect coordination. Some people can do it. You’d be surprised how many people hold back, ashamed and closeted, hiding their guilty secret, because they cannot.
Luckily there are a wealth of presentation guidelines for us ESOL teachers to aid their students (did I mention you’re often expected to give presentations in another language too?). My personal favourites are most probably the standards; Dynamic Presentations by Mark Powell, 50 Ways to improve your Presentation Skills in English, by Bob Dignen, – both good for use in lesson planning – and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds – more for the coffee table, but still worth a mention.
As you can expect, however, with the various skills needed for presenting with confidence, these books (the first two at least), contain an awful lot of material. They’re great for those of us who run seminars or intensive courses in presentation skills, sometimes harder to implement when teaching presentation skills as a small part of a more general business or academic course.
Enter Phil Wade, ELT-trainer, author, executive coach, master of multi-tasking.
Phil has compiled a list targeting the weak spots he most often comes across in his own students’ presenting development. And then he offers remedies which involve the presenters and the rest of the class. He calls them hacks because they are easy to use. In Phil’s own words, “Hacks are short, sharp and effective. They don’t leave time for boredom to set in and they work on clear and immediate needs”.
True to Phil’s coaching background, the hacks place emphasis on strengthening the presenter’s own awareness of self and on acknowledging the learning processes that are going on (and not just blind panic and “getting though it”).
They start with channeling nerves, winning audience attention and the importance of time management, and move through the usual (body language, linguistic delivery etc.) towards “self-assessment” and “feed forward” – i.e. feedback that can be built on in future – hacks.
There are at least four great things about this book:
- Action is learning, i.e. Phil gives us action steps designed to make the theory real to students.
- The hacks are short and easy to apply on students’ individual flaws without becoming waylaid by the masses of presenting information and bogging the whole course down.
- The hacks involve the students’ participation, which is great for classes where not all students need/want to present.
4. Lists are great anyway. They hone your message to the basics and keep you on track. Hence this one.
In lieu of a clever ending to this book review, I think I’ll just mention that Phil Wade is also an inveterate sharer and rarely even charges for his work. If you value the efforts of an indie author, then buy this book, priced at a measly €2,99. If you’re happy to have a few big players running the ELT industry, then you’re probably not reading this anyway.