This term, when I am listening to student presentations, I find myself wanting to give feedback more and more on the form and style of presentation. What kind of feedback?

  • Look at your classmates (at least occasionally). Don’t dismiss yourself and your presentation at the outset. Don’t dismiss the possibility that someone might be interested, that someone might be actually listening to you.
  • Be responsive to what you are saying. Highlight what is important with your tone.
  • When you find that the class isn’t paying attention to you, your instinct might tell you to speed up and over-explain your points. Don’t do that. Slow down. Even take a few seconds in silence. Your distance from the audience increases as you speed up an opaque monologue. Silence is shared. In silence, you can join the audience and start over.
  • Give a presentation like a beginner, as someone who intends to learn from the experience, not as someone who wants to survive it with a self-defeating attitude of resignation.
  • Don’t say things you don’t understand.
  • There is no need to be too serious. The urge to bullshit is grounded, not in playfulness, but in misguided seriousness.

And so on and on, most of my feedback is directed at the style and form of the presentations. That could be because the content (if we abstract it away from the presentation in the form of a script) is usually good. Or it could be because the students’ body-language speaks louder than their words.