How to Create Interactive Presentations to Impress Students
We’ve all had to conduct and sit through presentations that did not encourage the audience to participate and were not very memorable. Although it might take a little more time and effort, you can create interactive and engaging presentations that your students will remember and enjoy.
Starting Your Presentation
Explain to the audience that this will be an interactive presentation.One of the most effective ways to encourage the audience to participate and to make sure your presentation is an interactive one is to explain this to the audience at the beginning of the presentation. When you tell people that you expect them to participate, ask questions, and engage with the material, they will be more likely to follow through.
- Make sure you are clear about how and when you would like audience members to interact. For example, will you have a designated time for questions at the end of the presentation? Is it okay if people stop you in the middle of the presentation? Is there a specific group activity you have planned? If you provide this specific information at the beginning, your presentation will flow more smoothly and the audience will follow your instructions.
Open with an ice breaker.Starting your presentation with an ice breaker will help engage your audience, and it will demonstrate that your presentation will be an interactive one. Here are a few ideas for simple icebreakers that will capture students’ attention and make sure they are focusing on your presentation:
Start by asking a question.Many of us have sat through presentations that were more like lectures, where people talked at us rather than to us. To prevent this from happening and show your audience that you want and need their interaction, try opening the presentation with a question.
Poll the audience.If you are worried that people won’t respond directly to a question at the beginning of your presentation, try to poll the audience instead. Ask audience members to raise their hands or stand to demonstrate their response.
- This tactic should yield a good response rate, and people will feel less intimidated.
- This poll will also offer you insight into what your audience is thinking. You can then emphasize certain aspects of your presentation to reinforce specific points.
Pose a problem.Another great way to set the tone for an interactive presentation that will impress students is to identify a problem at the beginning of the presentation. If you explain to students that you want them to think about this problem and brainstorm together about potential answers or solutions at the end of the presentation, they will be more committed and invested in the presentation.
- For example, if you are giving a presentation that deals with the history of immigration, ask students about potential solutions to modern-day questions about immigration. Then, revisit the problem or topic at the end of the presentation and discuss potential solutions.
Creating a Comfortable Environment for Student Interaction
Don’t be critical of your audience.If you want students to participate in your presentation, being critical or dismissive of their questions and comments will not encourage them to participate. A hostile audience will not make for an effective and interactive presentation, so keep these guidelines in mind when responding to your audience:
- When students make a contribution to the presentation or attempt to answer a question, acknowledge their effort. Mention that they have raised an interesting point or asked a good question. If your audience feels that you have at least acknowledged their attempt, they will be more willing to put themselves out there again and participate.
- Even if you don’t think a question or comment is an insightful one or particularly relevant, you can respond in a way that is tactful and diplomatic. For example, “This is a good starting point, but we also need to consider. . .” or “That’s an interesting question, but beyond the scope of what we can talk about today.”
Create a comfortable atmosphere that encourages interaction.If you want students to feel comfortable participating and interacting, you need to create a welcoming environment in which they view you as approachable. Follow these tips to adopt a friendly demeanor that encourages interaction and impresses students.
- Relax your posture and try to un-tense your muscles so you don’t seem stiff or standoffish. This might deter students from participating.
- Use a conversational tone instead of an overly formal one. If students see you as someone who is accessible, friendly, and approachable, they will be more willing to participate and interact with the material. This doesn’t mean you should use slang or inappropriate language, but you don't have to pretend you are a snobby aristocrat either.
- Move closer to the students instead of standing behind a podium, lectern, or computer. This will help you connect better with the audience and make them feel like they are a part of your presentation rather than just passively watching it.
Make eye contact with your audience.If you would like your audience to interact and respond to your presentation, you need to make eye contact with them and signal that you welcome their participation.
- If you are reading your notes or powerpoint slides instead of looking at your audience, students will be distracted and less likely to engage with your presentation.
Present different points of view or perspectives.To encourage student interaction and engagement, present different points of view or perspectives on a topic. If you only present one version, students will not have much to talk about or weigh in on.
- You can emphasize the perspective or view you think is most accurate and explain why, but you will create a stronger and more interactive presentation if you can acknowledge other views exist.
Encouraging Audience Interaction During a Presentation
Tell a story.There’s a reason most of us enjoyed story time more than any other school activity, and you can use this appeal to create an awesome interactive presentation. Storytelling captures your audience’s attention, leaves them wondering what will happen next, and helps them retain the information. Apply these tips to tell a good story during your presentation:
- Public-speaking experts recommend opening your story by appealing to what people know or think they know about a specific topic. This helps establish rapport with your audience. Then, prompt the audience to reconsider what they thought they knew by questioning the status quo. For example, what if what we thought about something was wrong, or what if there was something else going on? Keep exploring this dichotomy during your presentation, which builds suspense and keeps students on the edge of their seats waiting for resolution to the question.
- Make sure you have a powerful ending to your story that encourages or inspires your audience to continue thinking about the presentation and the questions you raised. Point out the benefits or possibilities of this new way of thinking, and suggest what still needs to be considered.
Include videos.Videos are an excellent way to make your presentation more interactive because you can use the video to encourage discussion, elicit a response from students, and set the right mood for your presentation.
- Look for a video or clip that emphasizes a point you would like to make or that you feel gets the audience in the right mindset to discuss a topic. Videos can also be helpful if there’s a feeling, emotion, or sentiment that’s difficult to convey while standing in front of a group of students.
- Using a video during your presentation also gives you a few minutes to compose your thoughts, and takes away some of the pressure on you as the presenter.
- Before playing the video, ask students to keep a few questions in mind or pay attention to something specific such as the language, scenery, or other aspect of the video so they are prepared for the discussion you want to have afterward.
Use other props.While videos can help you design a more interactive presentation that will impress students, don’t forget about other potential props you can use to engage with and maintain your audience’s focus. Although the props you will use depends on the subject of your presentation, here are a few general recommendations to help your audience visualize what you are discussing:
- Pieces of art or artifacts.
- 3-D models or figures.
- If you decide to make use of props, be sure to talk about these and refer to them during your presentation. For example, simply displaying a photograph on a slide won’t have the same impact as actually discussing the photograph. Try asking audience members questions about what they see and notice about the photograph.
Don’t do it alone.An easy way to make your presentation interactive is to invite other people to participate and demonstrate a point.
- Ask an audience member to come up on stage or to the front of the classroom and have them join you in an activity or assist you with some aspect of your presentation. Make sure you thank them in front of the audience and express your appreciation for their help.
- It can be helpful to ask for a volunteer before the presentation starts so you aren’t putting people on the spot. This way, you will also have time to explain what you want the volunteer to do and make sure they aren’t surprised or uncomfortable. Selecting a volunteer before the presentation will save you time and make sure it flows smoothly.
- Think about whether there might be a guest speaker or someone who could address a specific topic better than you or in a more engaging manner. If you are preparing this presentation for a class, it’s a good idea to check with your teacher first to make sure they are okay with you inviting a guest speaker or participant.
Give your audience the opportunity to move around.We usually associate presentations with a watchful, quiet, and still audience, but research suggests that our minds quickly wander and we can be easily distracted while watching presentations. Keep this in mind, and give your audience the opportunity to move around under your direction.
- When you ask students a question, for example, request they show their hands to answer yes or no. You could also ask your audience to respond to a question by sitting or standing.
- Design an activity that requires students to split into small groups or move around the room. This will help refocus their attention on the matter at hand and your presentation.
Call on people.If students will not volunteer to participate or you want their input and interaction at a specific point, don't be afraid to call on people and request their help.
- Calling on students by name helps establish a rapport with your audience and may make them more comfortable sharing. If you don’t know their names, you can start out by asking a student to identify themselves before answering the question. It can be effective to call on students who seem more extroverted at first, and then ask more reserved students later in your presentation.
- Remember, even if their response is not what you expected or is incorrect, make sure you acknowledge their contribution and do not demean the student.
Invite other students to answer questions.If a student asks a question or makes a comment during a presentation, you can encourage further interaction by asking other students to answer the question or follow up on the comment.
- It can be helpful for the person giving the presentation to restate the question or comment when asking for audience input.
- Remember, the audience will follow your lead, so make sure you are polite and not dismissive of any questions or comments. You don’t want students to be rude to one another.
Set aside time for interaction.Instead of hoping that students will interact with you and the material during the presentation, set aside specific time for interaction. Here are some ideas for interactive opportunities:
Concluding Your Presentation
Provide your audience with additional resources.While the presentation might be drawing to a close, your audience may still want additional information. Provide students with suggestions about how they can continue the conversation or pursue independent research.
- For example, are there articles, books, or websites you would recommend on a specific topic? Are there other presentations or lectures you could encourage them to attend?
Leave time for questions.Although your time might be limited, be sure to set aside time at the end of your presentation to answer questions. Giving the floor to students will make them feel empowered and engaged, and your presentation will be a more interactive and impressive one.
- If you run out of time, you can always ask students to write down their questions and hand them to you or email them.
Ask students to complete a one-minute paper.When the presentation is over, ask students to take one minute and write down what they believe to be the main point of the presentation. Also, ask them to identify a question they still have about the presentation or material.
- Students will probably be more comfortable and honest if this is anonymous.
- This exercise will give you invaluable information about what your audience understands or doesn’t understand about the material you presented. Then, you can make changes to improve and refine your next presentation.
- If you will see the same group again in the near future, you can discuss these comments and questions next time.
Invite feedback from the audience.Although you might be finishing up your presentation, you can still provide students with an opportunity to interact by asking them to provide anonymous feedback on the presentation or material. This demonstrates that you are committed to making the presentation even better, and the students feel like their input matters.
- Distribute notecards or a survey that students can complete. You could also provide a link to an online survey.
Compliment your audience.Although you might be completing one presentation, you will probably have to do another in the near future. It’s important to compliment your audience so they feel appreciated and will be more willing to participate and interact in future presentations.
- For example, thank the group for being a great audience and raising excellent questions.
- Use videos or other props to encourage student interaction and discussion.
- Give your audience the opportunity to move around so they are less distracted. You can ask them to raise their hands, stand up, or move around the room to work in groups.
- If you act rude or hostile toward your audience, they will not be eager to participate or go along with your interactive presentation.
Sources and Citations
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