January 17, 2018

Classroom Presentation Tips

Does your child have an upcoming speech to give at school? It’s often said more people fear public speaking than they fear death. But with practice getting over that fear, your child may actually find they enjoy speaking to a group. A presentation doesn’t have to give them anxiety.

As an educator, many of my students hated getting up in front of their peers to give a high school presentation.

But isn’t it essential that we teach kids not only content, but how to share what they’ve learned with others? High school presentations teach effective communication skills so encouraging students to be proficient in speaking and presentations is necessary.

When your son/daughter gets an assignment that requires them to give a presentation, here are some areas to work on as they are preparing.

Eye contact

For many students, it’s difficult to speak without reading from their notes or paper. Try to encourage them to connect with each person in the audience. Before they make a point – grab a set of eyes and speak that point to that particular person. When there is a second point to be made, pause, find another set of eyes and speak to that person. Doing this will allow them to better connect with their listeners.

Body language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication. Much of what we convey comes from our body language. Encourage them to pay attention to what they are doing with their hands. Rubbing their eyes, twisting their body, fiddling with their fingers, shifting their weight . . . all these forms of body language distract the audience from the message they are trying to share.

Voice inflection

Then giving a school talk, the way they use their voice is important. They don’t want to have a monotone voice that no one wants to listen to. Try to use vocal variety so as to keep the audience interested in what they are saying.

Facial expressions

Blinking, frowning, winking, teeth or jaw clenching are all types of facial movements that have meaning to people who are watching you speak. If you clench your jaw for example, that often indicates anger. This is not something you want to be doing if you are trying to elicit the opposite emotion. You don’t want people focusing on your facial expressions if they are not in line with your message.


This is a tough one for many people. Most students don’t know what to do with their hands when they speak so they usually end up putting them in their pockets, clasping them in front or behind them or even worse, fiddling with their fingers. Although it may feel awkward, for the audience, using your hands and arms to give more meaning to what is being said allows them to connect more with the speaker. To practice giving meaningful gestures with your child, have them stand in front of you and practice moving their arms purposefully. Ask them to raise one hand out to their side and over their shoulder while saying “point one” then raise the other hand out to the other side while saying “point two”. This is an easy way to get them comfortable using gestures without worrying about the content at the same time. Once they feel comfortable doing this, they can practice while giving their presentation until it begins feeling natural.

Filler words

Stop saying like and um! As well as . . . ah, so, and. This is so hard for the general population, but teenagers in particular since “like” and “um” seem to be in every other word they speak – especially when they are unsure or not confident in what they are saying. Ask them to try to be aware in their everyday speaking how often they use these or similar words or sounds. Being aware is the first step. So once you realize you are using fillers, how do you stop? Replace them with a pause. Notice when you are about to stutter on one of those silly word and . . . pause . . . gather your thoughts. It gives your audience time to process the information you just gave them too!

It really takes a lot of practice to give an effective school presentation. Needless to say, so much more goes into presenting that just preparing the words on the paper.

A great way for your child to self assess after the points above have been practiced is to video tape themselves. This will give them the opportunity to critique themselves. Although you can tell them areas in which they can approve, when they actually see for themselves what others will see it’s a different story! Not only will they see mannerisms they may not know they had and need to work on, but they may gain some confidence in themselves as well as they think, “Hey, I’m not so bad after all!”

If you find your child actually enjoys speaking and wants to learn how to improve further, you can search for your local Toastmaster public speaking group and see if they sponsor a youth leadership program in which they can take part.

Remember, no one knows what the speaker is thinking if they don’t tell or show them, let you confidence be greater than your comfort!

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