If you are a parent, you’ve probably sat through some presentations at schools that were a bit painful. Yet for tween and teenage students, talks are becoming a more common academic assignment. How can you support your kids (or nieces and nephews) to be better presenters? We offer these guidelines:
One parent client we know remarked that her teen daughters never even told her when they had presentations. If you are lucky enough to get that info from your offspring ahead of time, start the preparation early. Athletes and successful singers don’t wait until the night before to rehearse for a performance. Students shouldn’t either. Starting early means setting themselves up for success.
Content strategy: Have some
Many kids' presentations run too long and focus too much on process (i.e., “My project did these steps…”) rather than on having conclusions. Starting preparation early lets you make sure your child is leaving enough time to express conclusions and the big picture take-away of their content.
All about that Deck….Wrong! (aka, How about Style?)
Schools often put way too much emphasis on the slides and nothing on delivery. Many young presenters rock nervously back and forth, their voice is too weak or soft, and they don’t look at the audience. Have your child rehearse in front of you. If their stance is wobbly, help them solidify it. Are they mumbling or soft-spoken? Coach them to project with enough volume to convey confidence. You can even help them focus their eyes to different parts of the room in a deliberate way to imagined audience members, to show more confidence. (Just avoid the nervous looking “lawn sprinkler” effect with their eyes.)
A word about nerves
Coach your child to focus on the look and not the feeling. They don’t need to get hung up on nerves. You can assure them with this good news about presenting—the audience doesn’t have x-ray vision. They have no clue what’s going on inside! They can’t see the butterflies, and only know what you show them on the outside. The Style strategies listed above helps reduce the appearance of nerves.
Testing, One, Two…
Encourage your kid presenter to practice out loud, whether in front of you, or standing before a mirror. For an important talk, they might use a home video camera or phone to film and review their rehearsal. Timing themselves assures they are within their time budget. As they rehearse, they can plan a simple note system that works best for them.
Keep it Simple
Finally, while there may be many areas to address in coaching your child, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Select just two or three changes or behaviors to focus on, so the adjustments they make feel easy to do.
Good presentation habits start young. Coach your tween or teen to develop strong habits today for impactful talks. Those skills they develop now will have huge impact on their college years and beyond as they launch successful careers.
And the best piece of advice to give? After preparing the content and rehearsing, just have fun!