The Medium is the Message–What’s Your Delivery Like in the Classroom?

By Chrys Goyens, communications consultant, author and presentation/media coach

Regardless of our profession, vocation or area of work, we all need to tend to our presentation skills from time to time. Doing so usually provides immeasurable benefit.
Here are some simple tips for improving your skills
Know your audience - First and foremost, an effective speaker/teacher knows his or her audience. If there is any doubt then all other tips are of little use.  Know your class.
Be aware of your “delivery” – Many of us mumble or rush through sentences. That’s not ok. If you’re like me–and part of this group–then you’ll definitely want to ponder how you can improve. It’s critical to communicate lessons and information clearly; take the time to speak slowly and with proper pronunciation–one word at a time…one sentence at a time.
Prepare and Plan - Organize your content and employ technology to inspire and motivate your students and keep them interested. As for available technology, know this: at one time a teacher made markings on the side of the cave wall with a rock. And we eventually used colored inks on papyrus, then paper, chalk on blackboards and visual projectors, film projectors, PowerPoint and other audio-visual support means. Today it’s all about laptops, monitors and tablets and all this to say that a teacher must keep up with the times.
Shape content based on age and learning level - The younger the child, the shorter the attention span; realize this and move your lesson around, break it up with workbook (or on-screen) sessions and audio and visual examples. Do your best to have them sitting on the edges of their seats. And if you are dealing with older students, especially those armed with tablets and laptops, be aware that they might tune out at any time and wander off into cyberspace.
Remember you’re on stage - The classroom is a stage and you must adapt to this fact. Most great actors who are involved in one-person shows usually use a combination of tactics; they move around, they gesticulate, they alter the tone of their voice and they project so little Timmy in the back row can hear as clearly as little Susie up in front.
If you are teaching even a moderate-sized group, modulate your voice. One of the most memorable scenes from a great teen movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–features actor Ben Stein as a teacher taking roll call in a notorious monotone “Bueller? Bueller?” as his students drop off.
Many teachers understand that effective use of visual aids, especially in these days of   burgeoning technology, but they must also realize that if effective design and meaningful organization of content is not present, all other efforts may have little impact.
Some suggestions:

  • Use simple words or phrases.

  • Keep the design simple.

  • Don’t use long extracts from documents when short quotes will do.

  • Give clear titles to visuals.

  • Produce and use summary lists.

  • If you use diagrams, charts and tables, make sure that they are simple and clear, with readily recognized symbols.



Remember to be flexible–to improvise when you feel that your lesson is not going as planned. If your students are dropping off and you can hear the snores, wake them up and involve them in the lesson. One way to do this is to ask them if they have had personal experiences with elements of the lesson and could they communicate these to their classmates. Adapting will save you much grief, but remember that doing so rests on being attentive to feedback from students. What are they saying or not saying? Are they engaged etc. And, as a final driver of success, consider picking up a book on presentation skills, reading some articles on the topic or, at the least, finding ways to evaluate your progress over time.

By Adam

August 20, 2014