Helping students overcome presentation fears

by Halina St James

One of the many things commerce students have to do in university is make presentations. For many it’s a nerve wracking experience. So hats off to universities who give their students an advantage by bringing in a presentation skills coach.

One such school is the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

I just spent time with a first year commerce class there. The students have to make three presentations, which account for 30% of their final mark. They do group presentations of four people. Their professor, Peter Sianchuk, says many struggle to overcome nerves or shyness.

Halina St James with Peter Sianchuk
Halina with Peter Sianchuk and a lot of snow outside the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies

I gave the students the basics of my Talkitout™ Technique, and some strategies for powerful presentations. Then I talked to them about the experiences of some of my clients, like advertising companies, who regularly make group presentations.

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Lessons from the Dragon’s Den

The  Dragon’s Den team is in Nova Scotia, auditioning for the show. Dragon’s Den is the successful reality TV show (CBC) where budding entrepreneurs pitch their products and ideas to a panel of business moguls who can crush them or bankroll them.

Podium’s Halina St James asked producer Molly Duignan what tips she had for people wanting to be on the show. Molly’s advice is good for anyone making presentations.

Dragon's Den producer Molly Duignan
Dragon's Den producer Molly Duignan

First, she said, remember, Dragon’s Den is a television show. It has to be entertaining. It’s the same when you’re making a presentation. You need to inform your audience but you also need to entertain them. Bring your presentation to life with stories, and changes of emphasis and tone.

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Oscar speeches: the best and the worst

Last night’s Oscar awards gave us a chance to examine contrasting styles of acceptance speeches.

If you make any sort of presentation or speech as part of your job, there are lessons for you from last night’s show.

Colin Firth

Two of the best speeches were from Colin Firth (best actor, The King’s Speech) and Tom Hooper (director, The King’s Speech). Firth had a simple opening (“I think my career just peaked”) and maintained a gently self-deprecating style through his speech. He warned the audience “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves,” and ended with “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some impulses I have to attend to backstage.”

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Hook your audience with your first words

hook your audience with your opening words

When I spoke at the Rotary Club of Halifax, Harbourside, a man asked if the ‘old rule’ about public speaking was still valid. He was referring to the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them,” structure. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating. …

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Don’t be a cultural colonialist

make an effort to understand diversity

Years ago when I taught English as a Second Language, I touched a Thai student’s head. He was deeply offended. Another of my students, a wealthy Iranian teenager, would constantly snap his fingers at me when he wanted my attention. This time I was offended. How we move, act and gesture is very important as we …

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Are your questions getting the best answers?

the simpler the questions, the better the answers

I keep six honest serving-men, (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who. – Rudyard Kipling I’ve been asking questions professionally all my life. For newspapers, radio stations and for BBC Television News. When I stopped running round the world as a television …

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Time to banish bullet points

Bullet points don't work

Looking for a great way of making your slide presentations stand out from the crowd? Try dumping all those bullet points. A whole lot of research into how the brain works suggests that bulleted lists of information on slides is the least-effective way of communicating with your audience. Dr Richard Mayer, an educational psychologist in …

Read moreTime to banish bullet points