I would take a guess that the vast majority of you have been students at some point in your lives. You might have attended school, college; maybe even university. And so the similarities between being a student in a classroom and being an audience member in a presentation can’t have escaped you entirely.
If you’ve ever actually taught, you’ll realise that there are certain things a teacher should do that are very similar to the things a presenter should do. And this doesn’t just apply to training presentations: they are just as important for sales presentations too.
1. Keep it relevant.
As we’ve said time and again, relevancy is crucial to audience engagement. If your audience can’t see how what you’re saying applies to them, they will fail to pay attention. And the same is true when you’re teaching. No matter the age or ability of your students, if you don’t adapt the lesson to their needs and interests, you’re not going to get through. Show them how what you’re teaching will be applicable in the real world, or draw comparisons with things they’re interested in. Similarly in a presentation, ensure your audience understand how what you’re telling them will benefit them. Don’t expect exactly the same lesson to work as well with different classes, or the same presentation to work with different audiences. It won’t.
2. Keep your language simple.
When you’re trying to introduce students to a new topic, explaining it in words they don’t understand will not help them grasp the subject matter. This is especially true when teaching a foreign language, and business presentations that use vocabulary the audience is not familiar with can feel like they’re being delivered in a foreign language. If you start using technical jargon your audience is not familiar with, you’ll lose them in seconds. Keep your vocabulary simple, and get your point across in as straightforward a way as possible.
3. It’s all about the preparation.
When you’re teaching a lesson, just as when you’re delivering a presentation, you need to have done the groundwork. Planning a lesson involves taking your students’ needs into account, and adapting materials to suit their knowledge, experience, likes and dislikes. As any teacher will tell you, teachers work before the lesson; students work during it!
The same is true for presentations. The hard work comes beforehand. You could spend months honing your message and working on your slides. In fact, you should. Presentation content should be tailored to your audience, and your slides should be designed to maximise engagement and recall. Plus, of course, rehearsal time should be factored in. When you’re finally ready to present, the tough bit will be done. If you’ve prepared sufficiently, your presentation will be in a far better position to achieve your objectives.
4. Visuals count.
Shoddy boardwork that students can’t copy will not be remotely helpful in a lesson. Unappealing materials will not make them want to work harder. If you’re a tech-savvy teacher and use PowerPoint, overwhelming your students with too much information will intimidate them and not help their learning. In the same way, slides in a business meeting should be impressive, and engage your audience without containing too much information. Taking time to work on your slidedeck and any handouts will be hugely beneficial.
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
In a presentation, your key messages should be repeated throughout. In the same way, teachers need to ensure their students have a chance to refresh the things they have already learnt. New topics taught should be linked back to things already learnt, so students can build on previous knowledge. In the same way, effective presenters use repetition to ensure their key messages are remembered, and refer back to earlier stages of the presentation to ensure that the audience has fully assimilated the information. Repeat your key messages, and you’ll be far more successful at achieving your objectives.