Presenter Tips

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How to make a great presentation at the KOTESOL International Conference 2012

Some guidelines (not requirements)

We at KOTESOL want to do all we can to help you make a great presentation, whether you are a first-time presenter or a launched professional. Here are some suggestions  and  helpful  hints  on  speaking  before  your  peers, making PowerPoint presentations that actually help your topic, using handouts, and interacting with your audience. We are committed to helping you do your best and  nurturing new  speakers.  With  that  in  mind,  please  remember  these  are suggestions, not requirements.

Standing before a group of students, who may or may not want to learn English, and standing before a group of peers who expect to hear something new are two different things. If you're afraid your topic won't be interesting to other professionals, don't worry. We wouldn't have chosen your presentation if we hadn't thought it would be useful to some portion of KOTESOL members or conference attendees.

Know Your Material.

Standing there reading a paper sends a message that you don't know the material well, and you can't teach your audience something you don't know well yourself. Eye contact is essential, and reading a paper limits and stilts natural contact. If you ask your audience a question while reading a paper, they won't know whether

they're supposed to respond or not.

There's nothing wrong, however, with notes. They can be used to keep you on track and look something like an outline, like this:

            •          Introduction/Background information

            •          The problem

            •          The study

A. The subjects

B. The test

C. Results

            •          Conclusions

This is sufficient to get you back on track if someone asks you a question, if the equipment  fails,  or  if  you  just  lose  your  train  of  thought.  Notes should  not substitute for knowing your material. See below on using PowerPoint for this purpose


'Practice' can mean standing before a group of people, giving your presentation as you would at the conference, but there are other ways you can practice. First of all, just discussing your project informally with friends and colleagues is extremely beneficial. You don't have to worry about the larger structure and you can still find your weak spots. Pay attention to the questions they ask and incorporate them into your actual presentation. This is all part of knowing your material well.

If you've presented at our conference before, bear in mind that the length of concurrent sessions is  45 minutes, not 50 as in the past. If you're in Korea, the best way to practice before your peers is to present at a

KOTESOL chapter meeting. Contact the chapter presidents and ask if there is an open slot prior to the conference. Some presidents book their speakers a couple months in advance while others a full year, so be prepared to do a little travelling if your local chapter doesn't have an opening. There may be a cancellation and you could be helping them out. Also, you may be able to present at a couple different chapters and really polish your presentation.

If  you're  not  in  Korea,  there  are  TESOL  affiliates   and  other  ELT-related organisations  around  the  world,  both  in  countries  where  English  is  a  native language and where it is a foreign one. Finally, you are strongly encouraged to check out a local Toastmasters club as well. There are some in Korea, in Seoul and Daejeon, and in cities throughout the world. Use their web page ( to find one near you.

Although different clubs have different rules, they are generally free to check out, and you can participate to whatever degree you feel comfortable. Even as an observer, you will likely become more aware of certain aspects of public speaking that you otherwise  don't  pay  attention  to.  These  meetings  have,  for  example,  an  'Ah counter,' a person who tallies and reports on every time a speaker uses 'ah,' 'um,' etc. But don't worry: these meetings are fun and will certainly help you whatever aspect  of  public  speaking you  need  help  in,  whether it  is  projecting,  stage presence, public fluency, etc.

Common Mistakes with PowerPoint Presentations

This  guide  is if you  intend  to  use  PowerPoint.  Many  people  make  great presentations without it and you shouldn't feel compelled to use it if you're more comfortable without it.

PowerPoint  can be  either a  powerful tool or a  misused one. It  can enhance presentations and make them more memorable or, perhaps more frequently, it makes them harder  to  follow.  Humans are  single-channel beings  and  cannot process information coming at them from both the speaker and the screen, even on  the  same  topic.  Many  speakers  compete  with  their own PowerPoint presentations and never realise it. Remember that no one wants to watch the presenter read a paper; likewise, no one wants to watch the high-tech version of this  where  the  speaker  reads  the PowerPoint slides.  In  fact,  it's  even  worse because the audience reads silently faster than the presenter can read orally.

There isn't much need for the actual presenter. One well-known presenter told me that whenever he sees a PowerPoint presentation, he watches the audience to see who's actually paying attention to the speaker and who's more involved with the screen...meaning that he's paying attention to neither. This is a risk you run with such presentations.

Fortunately, there is a very simple rule-of-thumb for using PowerPoint and avoid the problems associated with it. Use pictures rather than words. Words on the screen will compete with those you say; pictures will complement and reinforce them. I clearly remember the points one speaker at the 2007 KOTESOL conference made because I remember the pictures he used to make them. Say it verbally, show it graphically.  Words can, of course, be used, but your audience shouldn't have to stop listening to you to read them. Outline headings, like those given above, work fine and can help you as well since you won't have to look at your notes. They can appear non-obtrusively at the top of the slide. Diagrams need labels, and sentence with the kind of grammatical structure you're talking about can be shown on the screen to good effect.

Speaking  of  distractions,  be  careful  of  using  too  many  of  those  fancy, animated  transitions.

A final point: Just because you use PowerPoint to make a certain point doesnot mean you have to use it for the entire presentation. Don't fill up subsequent screens for the entire 45-minutes just because you need it for five minutes. Turn the screen off or insert some blank screens in the file. It is your helper, not your co-presenter. Think of PowerPoint as an OHP. Just because you use the OHP for one slide does not mean you need to keep showing new slides until you're finished. You can turn off the OHP and use it only when you need it, and you can, and should, do the same withPowerPoint. 

Also, it's nice to have a title page showing your name, affiliation and title of your presentation and have this up during prior to your talk as the audience trickles in. You can also insert this screen into areas where you don't need to use PowerPoint.

If  you  don't  have PowerPoint,  you  can  download Open  Office from,  a  freeware  package  that  includes  a  word  processor, spreadsheet,  database,  graphics  programs  and  a PowerPoint-type  program called Impress.  I  have  made  presentations  on Impress,  saved  them  in PowerPoint format, and opened them on computers at various presentation sites with no problem.


Handouts are rather similar to PowerPoint in that many people are going to be looking at them rather than listening to you. They're going to be ahead of you only now they have the entire presentation, not just the current slide, before them. For this reason, many presenters give out their handouts only after they have

finished talking. However, you may require that the audience examines a text (for words they expect students won't understand, or to find student errors, etc.), in which case you will need to distribute them at the beginning. (And although I warn against using a lot of language in a PowerPoint presentation, we are language teachers, and cases like these are a good exception, particularly if you're not talking while the audience is examining them.) Decide how you want to handle handouts before your session

Interacting with your audience

Some speakers prefer to take questions after they have finished, and some prefer that the participants ask them at any time. The former has the benefit of letting you speak without getting sidetracked or losing your train of thought, but you run the risk of moving on to a new point when the audience doesn't understand your

previous one. The latter lets you end with a strong finish you prepared rather than on audience questions. Which method you take is your decision, but your audience will appreciate it if you announce your preference at the beginning. 

Also, don't be afraid to ask questions to your audience. These can be the kind where you know (or think you know) the answer they'll give you, or they can be open-ended. They can require answers of some length, perhaps requiring that a participant or two state their answer, or they could be simple yes/no questions.

You may want to ask for a show of hands ('Who's ever experienced the problem I'm describing?'). Questions to the audience makes the presentation more interactive, involves them more, and gives you a chance to take a sip of water. Note, though, that it is nearly impossible to ask your audience questions but expect them to hold on to theirs until you're finished.You may also want to ask your audience to actually do something, perhaps stand up and act out something to the person next to them. This can be very useful in illustrating a certain point or simulating the student experience, but remember that ultimately the audience came to hear you speak. Such activities are great as a spice but not as the main dish itself.

Miscellaneous Points

Student volunteers will be assigned to your room. They will help you with the equipment and also they will let you know, by holding up a sign, when you have ten minutes left and again when you have five. Don't be deterred if someone walks out of your room halfway through. People commonly do this because there is another presentation at the same time as yours and they 're trying to get both in. It's a compliment to you that they chose to attend yours even when there was something else they wanted to see.

Likewise, be prepared that people may walk in halfway through for the same reasons. Don't forget to give contact information, especially your e-mail address, out to the audience,  on  your  handout  and/or PowerPoint presentation  or  even  on  the whiteboard. Someone will probably ask you for it if you do forget. Some people are too shy to ask questions in front of others, especially if English isn't their first language, and frequently there just isn't time. Some people will likely come up and talk to you after you've concluded the presentation, but there may be others who want to but didn't get there first.


Finally, remember that nothing would make KOTESOL happier than for you to give a killer presentation. We want to say, 'Wow. Let's make sure this person presents again next year!' Your success contributes to our own, so if there are any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. The advice given here is just that: advice. These are not conference requirements you must adhere to (except time limits, of course). The best speakers capitalise on what makes them unique.