Preparing Students for Successful Presentations

We’ve all seen it.  Leaning back on the board, rocking from side to side, or avoiding eye contact with the audience are all common occurrences when students give oral presentations.  Like any other skill, successfully presenting in front of the class is something that can be taught and learned.  If students are repeatedly exposed to public speaking opportunities, it is likely that they will become more comfortable with the process, which will ultimately lead to an overall improvement in presentation skills.  Speaking in front of the class isn’t easy, but there are definitely measures we can take to prepare our students for continued success.

Stage Fright

If you’re human, you’ve experienced stage fright at one time or another.  Stage fright is a type of anxiety associated with performing in front of a large audience.  For most people, stage fright occurs prior to a performance or speaking event, and it dies down as the performance or event concludes.  Ease the feelings of nervousness your students may feel before giving a presentation by discussing the causes and effects of stage fright.  Let students know that it is normal to feel anxious before an oral presentation.  Common symptoms of stage fright include a racing heart, sweaty palms, dry throat, or queasy stomach.  Student nervousness may dissipate as they begin to understand how their body reacts to an increased level of anxiety.  Along with explaining the causes and symptoms of stage fright, it is also critical to review with students effective ways of mitigating performance anxiety.  Deep breathing, thorough preparation, and a positive mindset all serve as an excellent starting point for calming the nerves of students before a big presentation in front of the class.

Voice, Gestures, and Posture

Another aspect of a successful presentation involves the appropriate use of voice, gestures, and posture.  First, speaking in a clear and audible voice is critical.  Many students tend to deliver a presentation in their normal speaking voice, making it hard for classmates in the back of the room to hear what is being said.  It is important that students practice their presentation in a realistic setting.  They should be using their public speaking voice in every practice session.  Next, gestures are also important. Actively participating in the presentation will help students keep nervous fidgeting under control.  Additionally, speaking with the hands and gesturing during the presentation keeps the audience focused and attentive.   In order to practice the effective use of gestures, students can engage in the role playing of different situations.  Common gestures during a speech or oral presentation include listing numbered points with the fingers, using a solid fist to show intensity, or showing an open palm to build trust.  While most gestures reinforce the verbal message, pointing is one that should be avoided.  Pointing can come across as aggressive.  With practice and over time, students will get used to speaking more with their hands during their presentations.  Along the same lines, correct posture is also important when delivering an oral presentation.  Students need to understand that standing up straight while speaking expresses a silent confidence in the topic or subject matter.  Put simply, a strong posture goes a long way for the speaker’s creditability.  Voice, gestures, and posture are all great examples of little things that go a long way in preparing students for successful presentations.

Click here to download the complete Voice and Gestures Lesson from Literacy in Focus

Gestures Worksheet for Kids

Grading Rubric

While it might seem quite simple, reviewing the oral presentation rubric with students ahead of time is extremely powerful.  Clear grading expectations can actually set the mind at ease.  If students are able to practice with the intention of meeting the standards on the grading rubric, they will be more likely to set themselves up for success.  In addition to grading the content of an oral presentation, most rubrics also include space for assessing speaking criteria.  Speaking in a clear and audible voice, the effective use of gestures, correct posture, and the incorporation of a visual aid are all common items on an oral presentation grading rubric.  Reviewing the rubric together will give students a head start when it comes to delivering a successful presentation. It also gives students clear expectations for the task at hand, and allows them ample opportunity to ask questions if something about the rubric isn’t clear.  As with any assignment in the classroom, using a rubric makes it easier on the students and the teacher.


Free Presentation Rubric

As students become more accustomed to delivering presentations, their sense of confidence in speaking in front of others will increase.  Reviewing the causes and effects of stage fright; explaining the appropriate use of voice, gestures, and posture; and reviewing the grading rubric ahead of time are three ways you can prepare your students for a successful speech or oral presentation.  Learning something new takes time, especially when that something involves delivering information to an audience.   With practice and incorporation of the three criteria listed above, your students will be prepared for presentation success!

student microphone

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Presentation Rubric | Free Download

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Preparing Students for Successful Presentations