Debbie West on presentation skills

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Gillian Evans opened the session with a warm-up exercise of body movements to refresh us at the end of a long day. Then Debbie West, who is president of TESOL France, began the presentation proper by looking at 6 presentation styles, labelled coach, inventor, counsellor, storyteller, teacher and co-ordinator- see here. These are like personality types, but in the specific context of public speaking. In groups, we had to read about these styles and identify the one which best described ourselves.

Next, we had a brainstorm of what different kinds of presentations there are - things like: informative, demonstrations, persuasive, inspirational, illustrative, impromptu, performance and so on.

Getting down to the nitty gritty, we watched a TED talk analysing the tricks of the trade of  someone who was widely acknowledged to be an effective presenter - Steve Jobs.

Debbie's idea was that developing presentation skills can be a great way of practising your spoken English, as well as being a useful life skill in its own right. For example, she suggested that students can prepare and rehearse a concise self-presentation, so that you don't get caught short in an emergency - like getting into a lift with someone who you're hoping to persuade to give you a job! (see 'The Elevator Pitch' on Jamie Keddie's site). These kinds of situations can easily leave the unprepared stumbling and stammering.

Finally, we looked at imaginative alternative formats of presentation that we can use with students, apart from the typical stand-at-the-front-of-the-class. There are many new possibilities emerging with new technology, such as pecha kucha and brainshark-style recorded powerpoint presentations - as can be found on Russell Stannard's site.

Debbie left us with a handout pack which included a treasure trove of material and weblinks around the them of presentations.



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