By special request, this blog post is written just for kids. But I guess grownups are allowed to read it too.
Would you like to get better at talking to groups of people? Maybe that means standing in front of your class and giving a report. Or maybe you want to make a podcast about your favorite subject. You might even use a web conference to let people see you and hear you in other cities or countries! All of these are examples of different ways to give a presentation.
Giving a presentation is not the same as having a conversation with a friend. You have to do all the talking, and the people listening to you want to get something from you… They should learn something they did not know before, or they should see a new way of thinking about something, or they should be ready to do something based on what you told them.
Learning how to be good at presentations is like learning how to play a sport or learning how to play a musical instrument. Anybody can pick up a guitar and hit the strings to make noise. But it takes lessons and practice to get good enough to play a song that other people want to listen to. It takes lessons and practice to become good enough to be a starter for your school's football team. If you want to get good at presenting, so that people WANT to listen to you and ENJOY listening to you, you need a few lessons and you need to spend time practicing.
One of the most important lessons and things to practice is thinking about how to organize the things you want to say. I would like you to try an experiment. Think of your favorite movie. Now I want you to describe that movie to someone else. Find a parent or a teacher or a good friend and ask them to listen without saying anything back to you. If you cannot find anyone to listen, stand in front of a mirror and describe the movie out loud to yourself.
COME BACK AND KEEP READING AFTER YOU HAVE DONE THE MOVIE EXPERIMENT
Most people are surprised at how much trouble they have giving a clear description of the movie. After all, you love it and you know all the things that happen in the film. But you find yourself trying to describe everything that happens. You forget to mention characters and have to go back and fill in things later. You find yourself spending too much time on little details and have trouble getting back to the main story. The person listening to you probably gets fidgety or looks bored.
This is what can happen when you give a book report or a history report or present a science fair demonstration. You know so many things about your subject that you have a hard time organizing them and making the topic interesting for the people listening to you.
Now comes the lesson… the basic skills that you can practice and get good at. Write down a list of the facts that you know about your topic. All the things you want to include in your talk. Do not worry about the order or making them sound good. They can just be a list of simple words. Now look over the list and ask yourself, "Why would my listeners care about any of this? How can I make it relate to things they are interested in?"
To write this blog post, I thought about things I wanted to tell you. They were the facts I know. "What is a presentation, organizing thoughts, practicing skills, relating to the audience…"
I looked over the list and asked myself what YOU care about. I am an adult and I usually give presentations to business men and women. But you would not care about that. So I started by asking you to think about the kinds of presentations YOU might give. I related the information to school reports or giving presentations to friends. Later I came back to the same idea ("This is what can happen when you give a book report or a history report or present a science fair demonstration").
Another thing I did is to keep writing "you" and "your" instead of "I" and "my." Go back and look over this article. Do you see how many times I bring you into the subject by making each fact about you and how you can use the information or get better at the things that matter to you? That automatically makes you more interested than if I keep writing about how "I" give presentations and what "I" think is important.
I also spent some time looking for places to get rid of little things that were not important in helping to build your interest and understanding. I know this article seems long already, but it would have been even longer if I had not gone back and removed sentences where I could.
Finally, I have to think of what to leave you with at the end. What did you learn? How will you think about something in a new way? What can you do with the information in my presentation?
I hope you now have a new way to think about getting ready for your next presentation. You have a plan for organizing your information and you will think about ways to make the subject about your audience instead of about you. You even have an easy way to practice… Can you go back and think about your favorite movie again, deciding how you would describe it to your listener in a way that makes them want to see it?
If you keep working on your presentation skills, you can become just as much of a "star" as in sports or music. All it takes is a willingness to learn and practice your technique!