In the Frontiers of Psychology class I teach at Tsinghua (Monday 3:20-4:55, Teaching Building 6, Room A113, visitors welcome) , the students will give several presentations each class period. So I decided to assemble a list of advice. I came up with Items 1-3, the students came up with the rest.
- Give a presentation that you would like to hear. Don’t worry about following a formula.
- Make your points by telling stories. Don’t just say “X is true”. Tell a story that will make your listeners think that X is true.
- Stay within the allotted time (e.g., 5 minutes). In real life — presentations at scientific conferences, for example — most presentations are too long. Listeners rarely like this. They think the speaker is selfish. If one person speaks too long, this usually means that other speakers will have less time to speak.
- Don’t read your talk.
- Use simple, spoken English. Don’t speak fast
- Smile and use body language to connect with the audience.
- Pause before the most important points.
- Ask questions to attract attention.
- Show the big structure of your talk.
- When telling a story, don’t go far from the point of the story (e.g., with unnecessary details)
To me, the most interesting item is #8 (ask questions). For example, instead of saying “Let us begin” I can say “Shall we begin?” Which is certainly an improvement over coughing, which is what one student said was the usual way officials began talks.
For example, which phrasing works better?
Why does question-asking work? I asked my students.
I asked my students why question-asking works.
The first way (“Why does”) grabs my attention more than the second (“I asked”). I did ask my students why it works. One said that when you hear a question you automatically try to answer it. I cannot do better than that. I suppose we notice questions much like we notice loud noises.