Presentation Tips

Later sections of these training materials provide options for delivering presentations that will help staff and administrators provide accessible student services. The Presentations section also contains case studies, evaluation instruments, and overhead templates to use in presentations. Once you select a presentation topic, consider incorporating some of the following suggestions to make your presentation more effective.


"The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working the minute you're born and never stops working until you get up to speak in public." (Unknown source)

The quality of your presentation is directly related to the quality of your preparation. Rarely will you have difficulties in your presentation as a result of being "overprepared."

Create a comfortable learning environment

"The worst human fears are speaking in front of a group of people, dying, and speaking and dying in front of a group of people." (Unknown source)

Manage your anxiety

"There are two kinds of public speakers-those who admit to their nervousness and liars." (Mark Twain)

Nervousness before a talk or workshop is healthy. It shows that your presentation is important to you and that you care about doing well. The best performers are nervous prior to stepping on stage. Below are suggestions for assuring that anxiety does not have a negative impact on your presentation.

Create a strong beginning

[Picture of two students working on a hands-on activity with an instructor.]

"The greatest talent is meaningless without one other vital component: passion." (Selwyn Lager)

Most audiences give you only 30-60 seconds to convince them they want to listen to you. Keep your opening simple and exciting.

Incorporate universal design principles

"I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best." (Oscar Wilde)

Model accessible teaching methods that your participants can use. Incorporate universal design principles to address the needs of participants with a wide range of knowledge, abilities, disabilities, interests, and learning styles. Examples are listed below.

Create a dynamic presentation

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." (Albert Einstein)

If your audience enjoys and remembers your information, it is because you presented it in a dynamic or compelling manner.

Make your presentation interactive

[Picture of an instructor delivering information while surrounded by a group of students.]

"It is better to ask some questions than to know all the answers." (James Thurber)

Avoid simply lecturing to your audience. Engage your audience in active discussion.

Include a group activity

"Real prosperity can only come when everybody prospers." (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt)

Include a short activity that makes an important point and encourages participation and discussion. Here's one to try. Announce that you're going to have a five-minute activity, and then ask your participants to choose someone sitting near to them to share with each other two things:

  1. one thing you are very good at
  2. one thing you are not very good at

Write and read aloud the instructions on an overhead projector, PowerPoint™ slide, or flip chart. Give them 3-4 minutes (there will be a lot of laughter and lighthearted talk), and then say you're not really interested in what they do well; ask people to share things that their partner does not do well. (This usually ends up humorous-they enjoy telling things like he can't do math, he hates public speaking, she's not good at fixing things around the house.)

After the fun, make the point that "You have experienced, in a small way, what a person with an obvious disability experiences all the time-that people notice FIRST something they are not particularly good at (e.g., walking, seeing, hearing) and don't take the time to learn their strengths. A disability may impact 10% of his day/life, yet it is considered his defining characteristic by others. We need to pay attention to what everyone, including those with disabilities, CAN do, rather than accentuating what they can't do." To emphasize the point, ask them to reflect on how they felt when you said you weren't really interested in what they do well.

The benefits of this activity include that it is short, fun, and effective. It addresses the issue of attitudes yet does not have some of the negative elements of traditional simulations that leave people feeling like having a disability is impossible to deal with. This activity is also good to use when talking about internal and external barriers to success for students with disabilities, which can include lack of self-advocacy skills (internal barrier) and negative attitudes / low expectations on the part of individuals with whom they interact (external barrier).

For guidance on simulation activites consult Disability-related Simulations: If, When, and How to Use Them in The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal (Burgstahler & Doe, 2004).

Incorporate case studies

"Adults remember 90% of what they say as they do a thing, 70% of what they say or write, 50% of what they hear and see, 30% of what they see, 20% of what they hear, and 10% of what they read." (Unknown source)

Have participants discuss case studies in small groups. In the Presentations section of this notebook are examples of case studies that can be used in your presentation. They are all based on real experiences at postsecondary institutions. Each case study is formatted as a handout that can be duplicated for small-group discussion. On the back of each activity sheet is the full case description, including the solution actually employed. This version can be used for your information only or distributed to the group after the initial brainstorming has occurred. Participants can compare their ideas with the resolution in the actual case. Using this format, consider creating case studies based on experiences on your campus.

Address key points

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Be sure that your presentation covers the most important content for your audience.

Provide resources for participants to keep

[Picture of an audience of students and staff responding positively to a presenter.]

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." (Karl Marx)

Make sure that you provide your audience with information they can follow up on after your presentation.

Conclude with a strong ending

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own." (Benjamin Disraeli)

The most important and remembered words you speak are the last ones.

Improve each presentation

"What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; but what I do, I understand." (Confucius, 451 BC)

Take steps to gain feedback about your presentation that will lead to improvements.


"When you can do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." (George Washington Carver)

In summary, to give effective presentations in which the participants gain needed information in a dynamic way, make sure to