As an instructor, professor or coach, you have a vested interest in the success of your students or clients. Part of that success comes from core skills. Across many disciplines, whether it be business or health sciences, one consistent requirement is having strong presentation skills. What are you doing to help your students and clients speak more effectively? How are you helping them improve their verbal communication skills? What process do you have in place to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses? Here are several projects and initiatives you can implement in order to train your students and clients to become better speakers and presenters:
- Presentations – this is an ideal strategy for a small to medium class size. Hand out a single topic or several high-level topics and ask your students to take a week or two to prepare, and then present in front of the class. Topics could be anything from presenting on a textbook chapter to presenting on a magazine article (of course, relevant material is preferred). For this exercise, a good goal for length is 5 – 10 minutes, during which time the rest of the class, and you as the instructor, listens and evaluates. Peer and instructor feedback are valuable for the presenter, as well as for the students doing the evaluation, as they then become aware of good and bad speaking habits.
- Assignments – this works well for a larger group setting. Hand out a presentation assignment to your students and clients, and then assign them to groups of even numbers. Outline several of the topics they can choose to present on and the length of the presentation. After giving them time to prepare, allow them to break out into their groups and present to each other. Their peers can provide written or oral feedback or both. The class should be able to complete their presentations in one or two days. The goal here is for students to get comfortable with public speaking and identify areas of their speech delivery to improve.
- SpeakPulse – SpeakPulse™ is frequently used by clients and students across the country to help them quantitatively evaluate their speaking level, spot bad habits and patterns and help them improve in every area of their speech delivery. The benefit of working with SpeakPulse is that you (instructor, coach, mentor, etc.) can assign the students / clients a deadline for their analysis to be completed, and it is then up to them to take their SpeakPulse. SpeakPulse users demonstrate noticeable improvement over time, as they are able to objectively evaluate their speaking level and subsequently track their progress.
- One-on-ones – this works well with a smaller group or client base. In this exercise, allow your students and clients to choose a topic they’d like to present. When they are ready, you can host one-on-one sessions where they present to you (the instructor) for 10 – 15 minutes. This will be sufficient for you to get an idea of their speaking level, identify any weak points or bad habits, and evaluate their overall delivery. Then, immediately after, share your feedback – don’t make it a separate session if you have the time to do so. Even 10 minutes of feedback – written or oral – will be valuable. If it’s written feedback, such as notes you jotted down, walk them through areas to improve, what stood out to you as strengths, and any trends you noticed with the rest of the class or group.
- Watch videos of good speakers – this is a very efficient exercise for groups of all sizes. To help your students and clients understand what it looks and sounds like to be a good speaker, they need to see and hear the real deal. Listening to a real speech or presentation, preferably a TED Talk, will set the foundation for what it means to be a strong verbal communicator. They can also pick up on small things that the speaker incorporates. Commencement address, speeches given by CEOs, and industry presentations are all good resources. Because this can be more of a self-study exercise, you’ll save time and allow clients and students to complete on their own schedule. If you decide to make it into a homework assignment, you can include a template for them to provide their feedback. The overall theme of this exercise is to help students pinpoint good speaking habits and emulate them.
At the end of the day, communicating effectively is critical to your students and clients – strong presentation and speaking skills are vital to one’s success in today’s ultracompetitive workforce. You can use one or several of the above exercises to get the ball rolling in your class or group. Some clients will be at a higher level than others, and some will be lower – however, these are exercises are meant to move the needle in the right direction and will improve their overall communication level.