Virtual Presentation Tips for Teachers, From a Professional Presentation Coach
Updated: May 26
At K-12 Clothing, we think it is really important to support our teachers, so when we met someone who coached professionals on how to present - both live and in Zoom - we spoke to her. Susan E. Finch joined us in The Multipurpose Room to give us her expert opinion on translating one’s classroom teaching skills into effective Zoom classroom leadership. This blog post has the highlights!
1. Listen, Listen, Listen, Teachers,
It may come as a surprise, but one of the key characteristics that an effective presenter must embody is the ability to be an effective listener. When teachers begin their class prepared to deliver a presentation, they work from a prepared agenda. But it is important that this agenda be malleable and for the teacher to be able to adjust according to class response. And how does the teacher know whether their agenda needs changing? Why, by listening (and watching), of course!
Teachers can see a close-up of each child’s face via Zoom - use it! They can pick up on cues of boredom, tiredness, or distraction. Teachers can address individuals or the class as a whole by reading the level of engagement. While being an effective listener may sound easy, it is not intuitive to everyone, and a great source is to check out this master class in listening at transformationmadeeasy.com. You’ll be a pro in no time!
2. Focus on Interaction
Although being prepared is important for presentations, staying engaged with your class and not looking at your notes is even more important. When you hold up a piece of paper in a classroom setting, the students can see that and still engage with your body language. When you are on a screen, it is harder to see the paper and for your audience to see your body language. As such, if you are using notes, ensure they are at eye level so your focus does not divert from the camera.
Of course, the focus is a two-way street, and your students need to be engaged for effective online presentations. Ask questions and ask your students to give thumbs up or down to keep them engaged. Create a class rule for focus - for example, hands together. If you see a child distracted, you can ask them to do “hands together” to take focus away from the object and back to the classroom. Some teachers even ask students to avoid taking notes, which takes away from the in-class focus. You can provide students with lecture recordings or a written class recap once it has ended.
3. Create a Classroom Setting
Although the ‘setting’ of your class will be restricted by what is visible through your student’s laptop screen, it can make a significant difference. A dull and dreary room with poor lighting is bound to dampen the mood and suck the energy out of your words, whereas a little lighting can go a long way.
While it’s okay to have some personal items scattered in the background – after all, everyone realizes that we’re working from home – the teacher should not have an overly distracting background. As long as the instructor themselves stands out from what surrounds them, they are good to go. If they can keep other learning tools in their background (e.g., a whiteboard, a calendar, etc.), it can be a nice reminder that students are in a classroom setting.
4. Unmute Everyone...Yes, Everyone
You might think we are crazy with this one but hear us out. Common Zoom practice includes putting everyone on mute while the teacher speaks, and only unmuting yourself if you have a point to make or a question to ask – after virtually raising your hand and being called on. While the intention behind this practice is good – to avoid distractions – it goes against the natural setting that students are used to in brick-and-mortar classrooms.
In physical classrooms, students can’t be put on ‘mute,’ and so if there are disruptions, there are disruptions. But this makes the conversation and discussion flow more naturally, with everyone getting a chance to speak up. Additionally, it helps retain individual focus, as when students are aware that they’re being heard, they would refrain from engaging in other things while the class is going on. So, a teacher’s simple decision to have the class on unmute can garner significant attention towards and engagement with their presentation material. And student’s unfiltered reactions also act as helpful cues for the presenter.
5. Be Passionate
This one goes for all presentations, whether in-person or virtually. If the teacher loves what they’re talking about and is enthusiastic about bringing fresh ideas to the table, then their students can grasp that through their presentation and engage in the same way. Standing can also add energy to your voice so you can stand during all or parts of your teaching.
6. Be Comfortable
Once you start talking over a video call, you’ll soon realize there are a lot of ‘issues’ with how you talk. And if you’re doing a recorded session, these will stand out even more. But the key thing to remember is that most of these ‘issues’ aren’t issues at all; they’re just in your head.
It’s important for presenters not to get too conscious about how they sound or look on camera and focus their attention on the material instead. Remember, if you’ve got a good grip on what you’re talking about, you’ll surely be able to keep the class engaged.
So, there you have it, expert tips from an expert acting and presentation coach, brought to you exclusively by The Multipurpose Room!