Emotion and information – you need both for a good presentation
Photo by MASKOT / imago images
The basics: teacher Kai Schmidt knows how to give a good presentation
enlarge image photo: Lehrerschmidt
Kai Schmidt is the principal of a high school in Uelsen, Lower Saxony – and perhaps Germany’s best-known math teacher. On his YouTube channel LehrerSchmidt offers solutions for large and small problems in everyday school life. His videos have been viewed over 135 million times (as of September 2021).
"First, you should think about the addressee:s: Who is the audience for the presentation?? For classmates, fellow students or colleagues? Or for teachers, professors and experts? How well do they know the topic? This determines, for example, whether and which foreign words you can use or how much knowledge you assume.
A good presentation means preparation and practice. If the teacher or lecturer has given you material, you should be aware of it – but also check other sources independently. You should be able to explain foreign words in your own words. It always goes down well if you can shine with some special knowledge, a nice anecdote for example. If one has all the knowledge, one considers a red thread and builds up the information meaningfully on each other.
No matter how dry the topic, the audience must not fall asleep. One should not only inform, but also entertain and address the audience directly. So always remember to speak in complete sentences, to seek eye contact and not to speak too fast. You can involve the audience, ask them questions or have them vote.
A PowerPoint presentation is often a good choice, but it has to be consistent. So don’t switch fonts wildly, and be sure to have another person check the spelling. At the end, don’t forget the references and a summary."
For advanced learners: Rebecca Elizabeth knows tricks for good (online) presentations at university
Enlarge image Photo: Tobias Schwerdtt
Rebecca Elizabeth Is a master’s student in molecular biotechnology. On the side, she gives workshops on presenting and teaches fans of her YouTube channel how to cope with exam stress.
"When you create the slides for the presentation, you can avoid some mistakes. The biggest one is to overload them: A lot of text is only distracting because the audience can’t listen if they are busy reading. Presenters often show the conclusion of their slide even before they have transitioned there linguistically. The audience loses the desire to listen and to complete the train of thought themselves.
I therefore prefer minimalist slides. If possible, I replace all or part of the text with icons. Powerpoint offers some under ‘Pictograms’ itself. This way I also avoid just reading off bullet points and can speak more freely. If you find it difficult to speak freely, you can write down the first sentence of each slide on cards. This way you always have an introduction ready.
If there is a discussion at the end of the presentation, it is important to moderate it well. Lecturers pay a lot of attention to this. I like to ask the first discussion question to the audience myself – for example about advantages and disadvantages of the presented method. In this way, you also take away the fear of having to answer a supposedly stupid comprehension question yourself.
For digital-only presentations, as was common in past Corona semesters, feel free to add a little more ‘jewelry’ to the presentation. With Zoom, for example, gestures and facial expressions are not so important, because speakers can only be seen in a tiny window. Here you can work with films and pictures to offer variety.
If you have the luxury of a standing desk, you can also speak standing up at home – this automatically gives you more energy. Everyone else at least remembers to illuminate their face well, for example with a lamp. It is worthwhile to test the image and sound before the digital presentation and, if necessary, to clean up the room behind you."
For business: Coach Frank Asmus explains how to make pitches and keynotes memorable
Enlarge image Photo: Dominik Pfau
Frank Asmus is a director, author and keynote coach. He is an expert in leadership and strategic communication, especially on stage.
"A business pitch or keynote is less about informing the audience and more about persuading – and that means winning over an audience emotionally. In a pitch, you want to collect financial support or commitments. When giving a keynote, i.e., a keynote speech at a convention or corporate meeting, you want to get people in the mood for ideas.
Many people are understandably afraid of such a lecture and cling to their PowerPoint presentation. But a good presentation does not come from doubt or fear, but from the desire to really add value and inspire the audience. If you are clear from the outset why your presentation can help others – whether through good ideas, innovative suggestions or in-depth research – you have a better chance of convincing your audience.
The ancient Greeks already knew how to do this quite well. They divided the cornerstones of good rhetoric into logos, pathos, and ethos.
Logos denotes clarity on the subject level. It must be clearly understandable what you want to share in terms of content. I’ve seen pitches from founders where I didn’t understand what their basic idea was in the first place. Maybe they did not know it themselves exactly. Clear communication is always preceded by self-explanation. So first of all you should make yourself clear about what you want to achieve – and why?
And here comes the Pathos into the game. Emotions are the drivers of action. Only when I know why I am doing something can I present myself to others authentically and with inner conviction. You often notice this with politician:s who are rhetorically skilled, but still fail to convince. Simply because no one gets what they really stand for at their core. Of course, in almost any persuasion process, you also need the strongest possible facts. More important, though, is authenticity and, ultimately, storytelling: telling stories that people remember.