There are usually two cases when you are made to present in front of children: when you are a full time teacher and have to conduct presentations on a regular basis to a set classroom OR you are a part-time teacher and conduct one-off presentations to new audiences.
Either ways, as a teacher presenting to kids, you should know that they can be one of the most difficult audiences to please.
Why? Because unlike a professional seminar or event where the audience is likely there because they want to be there, kids are there because they have to be there.
That’s what makes this difficult. And that’s why we must learn to be engaging presenters if we want to get our point across.
Here are some presentation and PowerPoint tips for you teachers to increase the chances of having a more engaging conversation with your class:
1. Text is boring. Imagery has also gotten boring. So, what now?
This is a general rule of thumb for presentations that most people already know of – do not make your slides text heavy.
Whether you’re using PowerPoint or Keynote, in presentations, less is always more.
Steve Jobs has taught us to use big, inspiring images to get our points across. While this does hold true even today, as teachers, we still need to keep in mind that we are presenting to the generation with the lowest attention span and the lowest level of concern with regard to what you speak about.
Remember, they are most likely not there because they want to. They’re there because they have to. So, while you work on keeping those texty slides to a minimum, you gotta start using more than just images as well.
Kids consume multi media on a daily basis. Hence, you need to talk to them the same way.
Instead of explaining via speech, explain via a cool animated video, for example. If you’re talking about the ill-effects of excessive screen-time, don’t use bullet points. Use an animation of how the screen-time can damage their brain and make them worse sportsmen or how it might reduce their ability to make friends.
You don’t have to make the video here. That would be expensive. But you can definitely borrow content from free sources like YouTube.
Video is one interesting form of media, but you can also use infographs, audio (sounds can be as powerful as visuals when used correctly), GIFs, Cinema graphs, etc.
This will make your slides that much more engaging and memorable.
If you must use imagery, try to use real people who they would know. This will increase the chances of the visual being remembered by the kids. And if the visual is remembered, so will the topic.
2. Don’t read. Present.
To borrow from the previous point, don’t just read out from your slides. You’re presenting. And a presenter is no less than a performer.
If you keep true to the rule of less text, you anyways won’t read much because there simply isn’t enough to read in the first place.
But if you do have those occasional text heavy slides, remember that the best way to make people remember a lot of information is to have one important take away and use the rest of the information as supplementary cues.
Let’s elaborate a little more on having a single takeaway….
3. Only have one simple take away. They won’t remember more anyways, neither will they care to.
Having a clear focus is key in any presentation. But so many presenters fail to take this into account. We often stuff our presentations with everything we know. But while our intentions might be good, they might not always be the best learning experience.
Kids obviously wont remember the whole presentation. So, make it easy for them. In fact, make it as easy as you can! Just have one takeaway from the whole talk. As long as they takeaway that one thing, you have done your job. If you manage to entertain and engage them while doing this, you have done your job well!
When you start to prepare your presentation, ask yourself as the teacher, what is the most important and beneficial thing that I can make these kids remember through my talk? Once you have that, edit your deck to make it crisp and concise. Which bring me to my next point…
4. Keep it short!
As a speaker, teacher or presenter – always remember the words on this badge…
Less is (almost) always more!
As a school kid, I remember attending presentations that the teachers would spend a lot of time and energy working on.
These weren’t boring subjects either. The teachers themselves were very good. A few of us would try our best to keep focus and takeaway as much as we could from the talks.
But after one hour, two hours, three hours…some times even four long hours…we would zone the heck out. Not only that, we would start getting restless.
We would grab every opportunity to whisper amongst ourselves. We would fain bathroom breaks. We would stare out the window. Regardless of our disinterest, the teacher just went on and on and on.
I could never understand why teachers do this. Of course, no ones going to be able to keep their attention for so long, least of all children!
So, if you’re ever presenting to kids, do them a favour and keep the deck as short as you can. More than them, you will also realize that your presentations are actually having a more positive effect. The kids will remember more and not despise the thought of you presenting to them again.
5. Speak their language
The thing kids hate is when a stuck up teacher who has been “teaching for the past 20 years” comes in and starts talking the language of the subject with no regard of how kids learn.
By that I mean, kids from each generation learn differently and each kid within a classroom learns differently. While personalized teaching might be a lot to ask for, at least try and speak the language of that generation!
Related article: 6 Types of Learners (And How to Speak Them for Maximum Impact)
This comes back to a basic point of knowing your audience which we will cover more in depth later in this article.
But instead of using jargon or boring graphs, understand what your students like – what movie are they currently excited to watch, which books are they reading, what are there favourite hangout spots.
Reference these when you are speaking. Use memes, GIFs, relatable moments from pop culture in your slides. This not only makes your presentation more fun but also communicates to the kids that you speak their language and get them.
It makes you a more likeable teacher and kids will also look forward to your presentations.
6. Keep it interactive. Have some fun!
When you have an opportunity to present to anybody, the best way to ensure that the person on the other side is listening to you is to ask them questions.
When conducting your presentation to kids, if you go on and on talking, they are eventually going to zone out. Try spicing up the presentation with a pop quiz on the topics you have just taught them.
A good way to do this would be to divide the class up into a few groups from the beginning and assign team names to each group.
Inform the students that there will be multiple short quizzes in the middle of the presentation and whichever team has the most points towards the end wins a reward. This will give them an incentive to pay attention.
You can even experiment with other games such as charades, Pictionary, hangman, etc. I came across this great blog article on classroom games where you can get a ton of ideas from!
7. Try learning a few of their names as you go along.
Kids are more likely to listen someone they know and trust. So while you are speaking, try and learn their names.
This is especially important to special guest teachers or visiting faculty who do not have the privilege of forming a long-term bond with the students.
One way to do this is to ask them to introduce themselves in the beginning of the class. Then, as you go along, pick a few students from the crowd and get them to answer a few basic questions. Don’t try to challenge them at this point, just try and get to know them a little better.
It’ll help make your session a little more interactive and personal.
8. Tonality and body language.
When you’re in front of a crowd and if the crowd starts to zone out, it’s probably not the crowd’s fault there. As teachers, we may tend to forget that we are essentially, public speakers.
And hence, we mustn’t forget the basics of public speaking.
When you speak make sure you modulate you voice. Speaking in a monotonous tone will most certainly make the kids zone out. It also adds to their restlessness.
Modulate your voice. Go loud when you want them to listen. And go soft when you really want them to listen.
Use your body like you’re performing (heck, you are performing!). Don’t just stand in one place or sit and speak. Move around, use expressions, use your body. Non-verbal communication is of the essence here.
Related article: Body Language Guide to Public Speaking (The Do’s & Don’ts)
9. Practice and be prepared.
Just because they are kids, do not take them lightly. In fact, a room full of kids can be harsher than a room full of old professionals. So, practice. Practice till you’re convinced you are truly engaging.
A helpful tip is to run the presentation through another child who you know (your son, your niece, your neighbor’s daughter) – whoever you can find.
What to do if the kids just won’t stop talking?
10. Relax, don’t lash out.
Our first instinct is to lash out at them. “Why the F*CK aren’t they listening to me?!” is a common thought amongst frustrated teachers.
This clowds our judgment. Remember, your goal is not to make them listen but to make them learn. And lashing out at them might get them to listen but barely learn.
So, when you realize your class is getting out of hand, take a breath. Realize it’s not personal. They don’t hate or dislike you. They just haven’t seen the value you bring yet. Your job is to show that – subtly, but clearly.
This goes back to having just one takeaway. Another point to note is teaching the kids why they need to learn what they are going to learn. This gives them some justification to sit through the course.
11. Don’t talk over them.
If you find the kids talking non-stop, do not continue speaking like everything’s fine. Discipline the class first and then continue.
One way of doing this is to stop the snowball from becoming too big. Once everyone starts talking, it’s harder to quite them down without shouting. If you hear a couple of them lads whispering, stop and fix your eyes on them.
Let them speak, but control the timing, give them time to talk, build an environment of interaction.
As a kid, one of my History teachers would often have her class be quite disciplined and well behaved. We would enjoy and sometimes even look forward to her teaching.
On the other side, the same class would lose their manners when the English teacher would step in. We just would not stop talking.
The difference? The history teacher would actually give us the time to speak during her class. She would schedule a few minutes between pages to allow the students to do what they wanted for a controlled amount of time (usually 4-5 minutes).
This helped get the restlessness out of our systems and we were much better able to concentrate during the rest of the lecture.
12. Hook them from the beginning.
Understand what matters to your audience. It’s usually just one thing. Highlight that point first and spare the jargon.
Again, keeping it short and sweet will be a blessing on you as well as the students.
For example, this one man had come to our school to talk to us about the threats of cyberbullying. Facebook was still new at the time and awareness on this subject was relatively less. This guy comes in and has us hooked from the get-go.
No one spoke the rest of the lecture.
Related article: 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (And How to Create Your Own)
How did he do it? He knew our age. He knew our background. He knew what mattered to us then. So, his very first slide was a story of a boy of our age who was tricked by cyber bullies all the way to his death.
The talk got dark really quickly, but I still remember that story to this day. Not only because the story was so controversial and heavy, but because it mattered to us. The boy whose story was told was our age, lived in the same area as we did and hung out in the same places we do.
Understand who your audience is and what’s important to them. Use those points in the beginning to hook them and make them understand the importance of the topic.
Related article: The Importance of Knowing Your Audience When Delivering a Speech
To end, presenting as a teacher is not easy. One may think they can just prepare something last minute and wing it, but that one chap is just setting himself up for failure. Remember, great teachers don’t teach, they perform, they entertain, they engage. And in this process, the students learn.