Why do students need presentation skills? This was one of the top five questions that I had as a student.
As someone who is shy, the idea of getting onstage and talking was a little exhausting for the eight-year-old me.
Show and Tells were a part of my school curriculum and there was no escaping them, no matter how much I hated them.
I often used to force myself up on stage with an object, mumble some facts about it and took the first opportunity to get off the stage.
It was however in grade two when my perception changed. We had a new student in the class. Let’s call him M.
M was to do a presentation on the phases of the moon. He walked in front of the class with a big chart that had them painted on it and took a ruler to point and explain to us all the phases.
Till date, every time I think of the phases of moon, that image invariable ends up flashing in my mind.
That is the power of an impactful presentation. It never leaves your mind.
When I moved to college, things changed. My time with Show and Tells in school had made me comfortable on stage but I saw that many of my classmates were uncomfortable with this.
The first time I noticed this was when a bunch of us had to present our research proposals for our final year dissertations. Some of my friends had great ideas and also the potential to turn them into the excellent dissertations. It was indeed sad to see that their proposals got rejected because they couldn’t present them well enough to convince the professors.
This was my final lesson. Presentation skills are necessary for all students.
Why is it necessary for students to have presentation skills?
- To enable clear communication
- To understand the basics of public speaking
- To understand the content better
- To inculcate creativity
- To use visual aids more effectively
- To make you a better team player
- To prepare you for future opportunities
One of the main reasons we need to have better presentation skills is to ensure that our message to communicated clearly to the audience.
Most of the school/college presentations, at least the ones I have seen and done usually involve every group/individual in the class present a topic from the syllabus that is usually than not taught by the teacher.
This means that for the audience, their primary source of learning is going to be the set of presenters.
Since you will be teaching a completely new topic, if you don’t have enough oomph in the presentation you will most likely lose the audience and to mention also your grade.
Let me give you a very simple example. Sometime in grade five, our Biology teacher asked the entire class to do presentations on the different body systems.
Out of the eight that I learnt that day if there was any that I understood in one go and still remember, is the Skeletal System. It happened so, simply because, unlike other groups who only spoke or used pictures, these students actually got a fake skeleton.
They then did a mini skit around it with each student playing a specific part. A friend was called skull, one was femur and so on.
This is one of my favorite examples of how a good presentation can teach well.
A very important reason why students are taught this from the very beginning is to ensure that they always strive towards being competent communicators.
To Understand The Basics of Public Speaking
I think everyone reading this will agree to the fact that one of the most important skills required today is that of Public Speaking.
Doing presentations in schools is often everyone’s first brush with public speaking and has been one of the best schools of public speaking for me.
I remember in high school I had to do a ten-minute presentation on the factors that lead to building up of the 100-Crore box office figure for Bollywood films.
My research was through, my script was written and practiced multiple times. I got on stage and began very confidently but it was only much later that I realized that I was too fast for my audience to understand everything.
They missed out on a few important points and since, I wasn’t really pausing too, they had missed out on my punchlines and jokes.
Related Article- How to Harness the Power of Pause in Public Speaking
A presentation that had the potential to be fun and light ended being dreary and colourless.
My time doing presentations in school really taught me the basics of public speaking if not much.
I grew up understanding the importance of pausing and pacing myself, using the correct body language, using the right language, the art of writing, editing and rewriting, how to effectively use vocal variety, and other things in tandem with public speaking.
Understanding The Content Better
Oftentimes when students have to present, they are required to use the internet and the library to thoroughly read up on the given topic. They then have to rehearse it a couple of times, ensuring that the given topic seeps into their minds.
Take a moment and go back on all the presentations you’ve done in school or college. There would be some part of it that you would remember even now if you had worked wholeheartedly on it.
Most of the time, especially as students in school we often sought to go the extra mile in order to impress our teachers and get a better grade. Probably the only time we are so eager to study. Presentations provide the best opportunity and incentive for students to learn how to self-study.
To Inculcate Creativity
One of the most sought-after skills of the 21st century has been that of creativity. Its often the quirk in our everyday mundane lives that makes us stop and think. Whether it’s in advertisements or presentations. A creative presentation will always capture the attention of the audience.
Encouraging students to do more presentations forces them to think out of the box and keeps their creative juices flowing. A group of students acting out a skeletal system that I mentioned above is a striking example of this.
But then, not always can this work. As we grow older and our presentations are on more mundane topics, one has to really think of ways to spruce it up.
For e.g., for my undergraduate dissertation which was on children’s literature in India, during a mock presentation, my professor pointed out that it needs oomph.
Since it was a research paper that was supposed to be presented in front of a group of acclaimed academicians, I couldn’t really act out a story or do something like performance poetry.
Here, adding the oomph meant simply adding some really colourful illustrations. In a conference where all the presentations were on topics like PTSD, Art Deco etc. mine stood out because of the illustrations.
Not every presentation will give you the creative liberty to go all out. Some will bind you. But remember, there is always a break in the clouds. However subtle the creativity, it will shine out.
To Use Visual Aids More Effectively
In a world where technology is fast gripping, using the right visual aids is very necessary. Not all presentations can have a life-size fake skeleton blow your audience away.
There are a bunch of tools that one can use that range from tangible to intangible.
Remember doing Show and Tells in school? I never quite enjoyed them at first, but then slowly they grew on me. I recall taking a puppet once, an actual sapling of a cotton plant, chocolates in a basket etc.
Obviously as I grew older the props changed. They moved from these to charts with photos and paintings to PPTs and videos to even a couple of live demonstrations on topics related to baking and dance.
To Make you a Better Team Player
Group Presentations. I am sure we have all been through this. It is on most accounts an experience we don’t enjoy especially in school and college. Here, often it is only a tiny minority of the group that does all the work.
We have all squirmed at the very idea of a group presentation without realizing the fact that there is a lot that it has taught us.
Often in the corporate world people have to work in teams and though these aren’t like the ones back in school where some kids are not at all interested. But then getting people to work is always a task.
Your experience of working in group presentations in school will come in handy here. It teaches you how to tackle creative disagreements. It will teach you teamwork, how to complement the strengths of your teammates, and how to substantiate for their weaknesses.
They teach you how to tackle creative disagreements and how to use everyone’s strengths to ensure you put your best foot forward.
Group presentations make you better leaders, better communicators and better team players. Skills that add immense value to you and what recruiters are looking for in this age.
To Prepare You For Future Opportunities
No profession will spare you from presentations. Whether you are a doctor, an engineer, a comedian, a student, or a banker. At some point in time, you will have to present.
Most often than not these will be opportunities where you might not have a lot of time to prep, hence the more you would have done it in school and college, the more confident you will be.
Related Article – How to Prepare for a Speech when you have no time
Not all presentations will be the same. Some will be sales pitches, some will be interviews, some will be taking classes. Each style of presentation will also be different.
The way you will take a class for a group grade six students will be different from that of a bunch of college ones.
I can share two experiences here. One of the most important things that you learn as an Indian classical dancer are the varied set of expressions or bhava as we call them.
When I was a senior at my dance school and used to mentor my juniors, my classes on bhava used to be simply stating the bhava and then enacting it.
It took not more than thirty minutes to finish the class.
When I began teaching young kids while I was in college, things changed.
Here, my students weren’t dancers. They used to learn for the fun of it. To teach them bhava I had to resort to showing them videos of famous Bollywood songs and explaining via that.
The same concept, upon a change in audience had to be dealt with completely differently.
Related Article – 6 Types of Learners and how to Speak to them with Maximum Impact
Your presentation in a start up will be very different from that in an MNC. The latter, perhaps more formal.
There are no formal institutions that will prepare you for these. Therefore, learning to present effectively in school and college is of grave importance.
They will be the only ways you will get a stage to practice, make mistakes and rectify them.
Guidelines for Becoming a Better Presenter
Well, there is certainly no set method here. The key to mastering any art is consistent and sincere practice.
Take up as many opportunities as you can to present. Most people don’t really stand up when it’s not a mandatory presentation or something you will be graded on.
Ensure that regardless of either, you push yourself to go for it.
Go on stage prepared and most importantly take feedback from everyone.
Speak to your teacher on whether your research was adequate or not.
Understand from here whether you wrote and edited well and what essentially should now need work.
Speak to your classmates and try to understand if they could comprehend completely well the topic that you were explaining.
They will often be the best judges. Understand from them as to how to become better.
This might be your first brush with public speaking so try to understand the basics. Understand basic body language like how your hands shouldn’t be crossed over your chest or your feet jiggly etc. You can do so by asking your peers who you think are good presenters, reading up on it etc. Next, strive to implement these in your next presentation.
Related Article – Body Language Guide – The Do’s and Don’ts
Understand basic vocal variety. Try to push for intonation and modulation especially if it’s a presentation on something related to poetry or literature.
Related Article – Why Eye Contact and Facial Expressions can make or break your speech
Understand that there is always scope for humor and that if you can, you should try to inculcate it.
You can do so by asking your peers who you think are good presenters, reading up on it etc. Next, strive to implement these in your next presentation.
Tools for Aid
The marriage between content and visual aids is of primary importance. It can make or break your presentation. Often, the right visual aids will lead to the right effect.
Here, it is also important to know your audience. If it’s a group of young kids, bright tangible props are more likely to draw their attention as opposed to virtual aids.
If it’s a presentation with a college group know that they will not want too many aids but the right ones at the right intervals. As a speaker you should be able to gauge as to when the audience would probably zone out and plan your aids accordingly.
If virtual aids are your only option, understand that the videos should be short. It would be preferable if they have catchy music and subtitles since these are instant attention grabbers and sustainers.
Ensure that your PPTs have minimal text, correct animations and are more visual. Too many slides are not needed. Remember minimalism is the key to trapping the attention.
The constant flutter of the screen (because of animations) even if it is for a second can leave the audience with a window to become inattentive.
Ensure that you blend your colours well. A good picture is often the one where light and dark colours are in a correct ratio and the colour of the text is in compliance with the ones in the picture. It shouldn’t be jarring neither should it blend.
Things to keep in mind
Before you get onstage remember to rehearse thoroughly.
It is okay to get onstage with a list of pointers but its not okay to read from it.
Eye contact with the audience is of primary importance.
If you are using virtual aids, make sure that you have practiced with them. You don’t want to fumble with them onstage.
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy. After all it’s about learning something new and that is all that matters.
Make mistakes but take feedback and rectify them and most importantly keep going back onstage at every opportunity that you can find. Always remember Confucious once very rightly said,
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand