Unleashing your inner Spielberg: How to make your presentations resonate with your students

Unleashing your inner Spielberg: How to make your presentations resonate with your students

It’s not enough today to put together a presentation and talk through the slides. Students have short attention spans and need to be fully engaged with the course material.

It’s not enough today to put together a presentation and talk through the slides. Students have short attention spans and need to be fully engaged with the course material. In this session, Brian Klaas, web systems designer for the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explains how to create a lively, memorable presentation or online class lecture using the basic structure of a great screenplay. Here are his eight recommendations.  

  1. Create conflict. Tell your students what the obstacle is they will need to overcome, and explain why that’s important to them.
  2. Build character. Draw people into the stories you tell in your classroom. Everyone can relate to people. For instance, show a video at the beginning of the class that explains the conflict. It will make the information more relevant and meaningful.
  3. Set the pace. Use pace to break your content apart into logical sections. This will make it easier for students to digest the information and manage their time better. The ideal length of each segment is 10 to 20 minutes. After that, they will lose interest, so mix it up and don’t spend the same amount of time on every slide.
  4. Composition. The way you lay out your slides will help students focus on the right information at the right time. Don’t make them decipher what they’re looking at. Put the most important point at the top or the center. If you put it at the end, it won’t get noticed.
  5. Less is always more. Don’t overfill each slide. You should be able to go over a slide in under two minutes. Your slides should support what you say, not replace it.
  6. Rehearse your presentation and use your notes. Don’t read your slides. Think of your PowerPoint as a camera, not a dumping ground for every detail. Use the camera to process the story itself and not the presentation of the story. Zoom in, and use close-ups and long shots to help the student process the information and see it more clearly.
  7. Maximize dialogue, not monologue. Engage your students in a dialogue. Ask them what they think. Have TAs or students who have taken the class before talk about their experience. Have other faculty join in on lectures and let them jump in and make points or ask questions. This makes for a much richer experience.
  8. Reflection. Reflecting on the program is important. The student needs to understand, “How does this affect me? What do I think about this?” Add your own personal stories. Don’t just be a conduit to the information, be the information. Let the students relate to your experience. Embed quizzes and exercises into your lectures to keep it fresh. Active learning makes a big difference in student performance.

This may sound easy, Klaas says, but it takes planning, effort and time. It’s worth it, though, because how you direct your presentation has a measurable impact on student learning.

This presentation was so well received that Klaas will be back for an encore presentation at UBTech 2014: Unleash Your Inner Spielberg When Flipping the Classroom! To see the video of the full presentation from UBTech 2013, click here.


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