Teaching materials for Oral Presentations

I have been asked to teach a class on making oral presentations. These students are advanced English adult students. Some are business people and some are graduate students. I need to find a good text. I ran across one called “Effective Presentaions” some time ago but I did not think it was very helpful. Has anyone run across a good text. Suggestions will certainly be appreciated.

I don’t know of a textbook that’s consistently good all the way through, but there are quite a few useful bits in Presenting in English.

The text “Discover Debate” is fun, but it is really aimed at lower intermediate level students. It would be good for mixed level classes, if you could put more demands on the more advanced students. And I think it’s pretty cheap–around $300 a copy including a CD. discoverdebate.com/ available through Crane.

A couple of months ago the author of Discover Debate, Charles LeBeau, told me that his new book Speaking of Speech is higher level. I like these books because they are fairly easy to handle but they deal with adult topics.

However there are quite a few tasks like listening to the CD to write down what you hear, or putting strips of sentences in sequential order, that are fun but might have to be revised if your students were really advanced.

Thanks for the tips. Joe, the download in the PM was successful. I’ll make it down to the bookstore and order a set for review. I’ll also see if I can get a copy of the new discoverdebate. Thanks again.

How about incorporating the use of PowerPoint as a presentation tool? If you are teaching professional adults, they more than likely will be using it when giving presentations.

They will be able to use any visuals that they desire. Powerpoint is but one. From past personal experience I have found that technology works great until you get to a remote venue for a presentation, at which time EVERYTHING fails. Part of any good presenter’s preparation is to be prepared with a backup plan for visuals. Part of the class. Thanks.

Powerpoint using a projector is nice but it really doesn’t allow many people to present at the same time. A really excellent technique that lets a large number of students practice presentations simultaneously was presented by a professor of English in Japan at ETA-ROC 2006. I have his name somewhere, but sorry I don’t remember it right now. But I really approve of his method, and have used it successfully in university classes. It avoids what I see as a problem in classes on presentations in which only one person can speak at once, which means students can practice less than 1/30th of the time.

Students must prepare their short presentation, drawing and writing on A4 pieces of paper before the class. When it’s class time, they form groups of three. One student in each group is designated as the presenter. The A4 piece of paper is put on the desk facing the listeners (i.e. notes are not so much for the speaker, but for the listeners). Then after presenting a three minute presentation (later presentations can be longer I suppose) the two listeners ask questions about the presentation for one to two minutes. The teacher announces that when the next speaker should start and stop. Running through all three presentations in the group takes about 12 - 15 minutes, after which they rotate groups. Topics I have found good were: travel, your hometown, favorite sports/activities, introducing the basics of your major/department, and introducing your family.

Using this method, each student can present their prepared speech three or four times to different people each time. They get to listen closely to others, and they can learn a lot about their classmates this way. I’ve found that students improve their speaking skills a lot, feeling more comfortable. And the teacher is kept busy with timekeeping and can also spend more time with students this way, perhaps using a clipboard to take notes about pros and cons of how the students are doing. In a twenty student class, the sound levels are usually not too bad, either, because the students can use speaking voices, and only a third of the students are ever talking at the same time. Never tried it in a bigger class, but I’d advise that the groups spread out across the room so they don’t get too loud that it’s hard to hear.

Getting everyone to understand this procedure usually takes a bit of time, but it can work really smoothly. The professor from Japan said he repeats this fairly frequently in his classes. Another approach I’ve seen recently is to have students record their presentations using YouTube, with students being assigned to evaluate each other. However, this might not be possible to do unless there’s a computer lab available, and it is a little different feeling than giving face-to-face presentations.

I like noisy classrooms. The buzz of many people speaking at once creates a very positive atmosphere, and also forces people to speak up. It’s a great feeling when a quiet class gets louder, passes the tipping point, and starts to rock. They enjoy it a lot more too.

Enigma, have you actually met these people yet? I remember once being asked to prepare an all-day program for a class of 30 “advanced” speakers. They were (predictably, in retrospect) a mixed bag of ability levels and none was genuinely advanced.

How do you get to be designated as advanced anyway? Scores in a recognised test would be a good guideline, but to achieve say IELTS 7.5 you’re already going to know something about presentations.

I find that most books on this topic focus on HOW to present, which your students probably already have some knowledge of. What the students usually need, and what the books usually don’t teach, is basic stuff related to structure - WHAT to say. In my book, you’re not advanced if you can’t state the main idea at the beginning. And you’re not advanced if you start everything with “because”.

I would find out what the students are capable of, then come up with some activities of your own. Introducing yourself, or describing your home town, is often mind-buggeringly boring - and unproductive because they’ve done it 1000 times since they first memorised these speeches in Junior High. Have them interview each other and then introduce the other person to the class as a first task. Then give them each some simple descriptive task.

The IELTS training material has loads of examples of 1-2 minute presentations they can do, and twocs’ suggestion for managing it sounds great. If the IELTS speaking tasks don’t do it for you then my simple fallback is to have a bunch of photographs with you from your own life. (I have mine printed on A4) Give one to each student and explain that “this is now YOUR photo” and have them introduce the pic themselves. Give them a bit of time to dream up a story, obviously. Depending on the class, I’ll sometimes give the real story (or a bullshit one) after the student has given their version.