By David Rische

You’ve probably heard these phrases before (or uttered them yourself):

  • Another training? But I want to work in my classroom!
  • Looks like another “One and Done” professional development…
  • Oh, great…Mr. XYZ is delivering this training—all he does is read slides to us.
  • I’ll be answering emails, updating my profile, and surfing the internet for another job during this workshop.

Or perhaps you are the individual lucky enough to be chosen to present (especially at the beginning of the year) and are the recipient of those comments?

How would you like a system you can consistently use to help you create, prepare, and organize dynamic and effective presentations, trainings and workshops?

To get started, just remember the acronym ERATO. I know, it makes no sense, but that makes it even easier to stick in your brain and implement!

Environment: Make sure you take a close look at your presentation area before the group shows up. Arrive at least 30-60 minutes early. Sit in different parts of the room to make sure there are no obstructions. Adjust the temperature. Bottled water is an incredibly cheap bonus to provide, but greatly appreciated. Food or snacks will win the crowd over even more.

Do you have all your supplies, handouts and learning materials ready to go? Have you tested your technology beforehand (power, connectivity, video and audio quality)? Develop a playlist of relevant music to have going before, during breaks, and after your session. You don’t want quiet down time.

And the best advice I can give regarding environment: Take care of as much of this as possible the evening before if your schedule and the facilities allow.

Relevance: Most studies show you have 30-90 seconds to win over the group when you are giving a presentation. Most studies also show the audience wants you to succeed!

The great challenge is how are you going to grab and keep their attention? What problem are you going to help them solve? What resources are you going to offer that apply to their needs?

Best advice here: Get to know as much about your audience as possible before you present. Formal and informal studies, some type of needs assessment, and use empathy to put yourself in their place. What would I want to listen to that would make this worth my valuable time?

Action: If the group has buy-in and has decided mentally to give you a chance—the next question you want to help answer is “Can I and my people do this?” Is the speaker clearly outlining simple steps for me to take regarding implementation? They are also pondering if they have the time and skill set to do what you are asking of them.

Along with acting on your topic, you want to provide intentional movement during your session. Most adults can sit still 12-15 minutes before the phones, tablets, and laptops come out and you’ve lost them.

Simply standing or walking around the room during intervals can get the blood flowing, a chance to share with colleagues, silly games, and short stretch breaks all help with the monotony of just sitting and absorbing content. Now they feel empowered as active participants!

Transfer: Besides asking if they can do this, your audience is also wondering how painlessly they can take back this new learning to their classroom, school or district. Is this easy to do? Is it free or cheap? Most participants are turned off when they realize a purchase is required. They are too busy and have too many things going on already.

Another key component for the presenter to consider is follow-up. Is there any way to communicate the success or failure of what was learned? Is there any type of accountability? Was the group given a resource to reflect on: Bullet point notes or a simple step-by-step action plan?

It is also important to give a brief exit survey. This provides feedback showing the strengths, areas to improve in, and frankly asking if they learned anything during your training they can immediately implement.

A nice final touch is remaining afterwards to talk to anyone that might have questions or just listen to their experiences.

Overprepare: Practice at home, in your car, at the presentation location, in the shower—you get the point! The stereotypical training or presentation reading along from boring slides allows little to no time for interaction, and often appears the presenter is unfamiliar with the content.

There is nothing wrong with having notes. However, try to have only key words on them instead of the entire presentation. Reading straight from your notes is no different from reading from the slides.

If possible, practice to where you can deliver the presentation in a moderately paced, conversational style. Too slow puts the crowd to sleep—and too fast is content overload sprinkled in with a multitude of “ums”.

Work on solid eye contact, moving around the presentation area, and delivering a solid, actionable, and possibly inspirational conclusion.

Bonus: Slide Show Rules. Use the 10/20/30 rule for slide show presentations.

  • 10 is the range of the number of slides you want to use.
  • 20 represents about how many minutes you want to take giving the presentation. Or, how much time you use until you give stretch and interaction breaks.
  • And finally, 30 is the minimum font size you should use per slide. That way you are forced to use a small amount of words and can focus on providing a high-quality image instead.

Next time you find yourself having to present anything, try the ERATO process and see if your results improve. I can almost guarantee they will!

David Rische has served in public education for 24 years. He is a principal, and a member of TEPSA, The Texas Trainer Registry, ASCD, and NAESP. He’s also a magician and has self-published three books including the Amazon best seller (for two weeks) “Top of the Class Teacher Interviews.”

TEPSA News, November/December 2019, Vol 76, No 6

Copyright © 2019 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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