Thinking of presenting but too shy to do it? Tips and hints for newbies

It’s the end of a long school year and you’ve accumulated experience, got a couple of ideas that worked in class or a topic that can spark discussion. If you think they are worth sharing with other colleagues, then you are on the right track and summer is the best time to work on a presentation for a convention, conference or any other EFL event.
Presenting in public can often seem to be daunting and many teachers who have a lot to share, usually shy away shortly before or after submitting a proposal. Yet, it is usually front line teachers who stimulate the audience’s creativity and contribute with their down-to-earth, practical tips to professional improvement. If you are afraid that what you want to share is not original, just bear in mind that we often get stuck in our daily routine and we appreciate simple practical motivating activities and practices that can give a boost to our classes. Another thing you should remember is that you’ve already survived the most demanding audience in the world – your class. At an event, colleagues know that you have spent time and effort to share your knowledge so they are favourably predisposed.
Below you can read some tips for those of you who would like to give it a try.
What do I want to present?
Jot down the main aim(s) of your presentation. Just like the way you do it for your lesson. Take the following into consideration: Is it on a practical or theoretical issue? What kind of audience does it appeal to?
Title, summary and abstract
Write the abstract focusing on the rationale and the content of your presentation. Be as precise and close to your aims as possible without giving too many details (usually the word limit is too short for a detailed account). It should give the reading committee a clear idea of what you have in mind and intend to do.
The summary for the event programme can be in less formal register – usually inviting teachers to attend.  A pun is usually ideal for the title but make sure it is not misleading. Both summary and title need to clearly and concisely illustrate what you intend to present. There is nothing worse than misleading your audience or raising false expectations.
Type of presentation
Talk, workshop, discussion group or…?
This will define forms of interaction and your style of delivery. If it is a talk you need to be prepared for a long period of presenting which requires a lot of rehearsing and good notes.
For a workshop you need to design hands on activities and different forms of interaction to involve the audience.
In a discussion group, you need to give yourself the role of the orchestra conductor who knows when to let the orchestra (members of the audience in this case) elaborate and manage time efficiently leading to an outcome that is of use to the audience.

Visual and other aids…
There are many presentation tools available, the commonest being MS powerpoint. Whichever you choose, make sure you feel confident to use it. Attaching sound, videos and photos can make your presentation more impressive as long as they don’t make the file too heavy and give your computer a hard time. There’s nothing more demotivating than a computer-based presentation that keeps getting stuck. In any case, even though technology is exciting, it can let you down when you need it most. Download videos in your computer and have a plan B if the internet or the computer decide to “go on strike” without prior notice.
Be concise and avoid long texts that distract the audience while you present. Avoid at all costs, reading aloud the slide. Your audience can do it without your help.
Different types of audience
Cater for different types of audience the way you do for your class. A heavily audio focused presentation (the endless preaching type) can easily put off visual and kinesthetic types. Different forms of interaction and types of input (visual aids) can help you convey your message more effectively to a larger number of people. Don’t forget that your audience consists of trained teachers who will work in pairs or groups more willingly than your students. All you have to do is give them clear instructions and a time limit.
Allow time for the conclusion and give the audience the opportunity to ask for clarifications or contribute with relevant ideas or experience. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much you can learn by them.
Rehearse your final draft in front of an audience of two or more colleagues who you trust and will give you honest and constructive feedback. If done about two weeks before your presentation, you will have time to make the necessary modifications to improve it and feel comfortable with these changes.
Once your presentation is ready, print enough handouts for the maximum number of people that can attend your presentation. You can find the room capacity by asking the organizers. Always print a few spare ones for people who may not have the opportunity to attend but would like to know more about the subject. It doesn’t have to be on expensive paper, or in full colour but a well designed handout with space for notes is always appreciated. If you use MS Powerpoint, you can use the option “notes” on the print menu.
The day before 
Last but not least, acquaint yourself with the room and the seating arrangement before your presentation. Walk down the aisle, feel comfortable with the room, try projecting your voice and make sure your computer plugs –if you use your computer – or the version of the programmes you use are compatible with the computer and equipment provided by the venue. Should something go wrong, ask for the technical support provided by the event organizers.
It’s showtime…
The big moment has arrived. At most conventions, there is a speakers’ room to allow you to concentrate and have a last look at your presentation. Put on your best smile, welcome the audience and remember that you are there to enjoy every minute of it. After all, you don’t have the opportunity to share ideas and experience with colleagues openly and without distractions every day!
Dimitris Primalis


  1. Excellent!! Very practical as always! Well done chief! :-) :-) OK - just 2 things from my experience: a) instructions: we cannot always assume Ts will understand them immediately (TESOLites excluded!); in my experience it is best to demonstrate any new/unusual activity and check your instructions (which is good practice anyway!)
    b) some Ts may resent being placed in the role of the learner, even though the session may clearly be labelled 'Workshop'... some may even be insecure about their English so one needs to have (as you have said yourself) a 'Plan B' just in case...
    So - that's all from me! Congratulations once again! Keep up the good work!! :-)

    1. I agree with all your comments. I'm flattered that a top notch presenter has shared his experience!!! Thank you Nick!!!

    2. Great job Dimitri, your suggestions are valuable to any EFL practioner, both to inexperienced and experienced presenters too!!!!! maria

  2. Thank you Maria! Hope we have more fresh blood at the next TESOL Greece convention!

  3. Very interesting read, Dimitri. Speaking at conferences can be overwhelming indeed but feeling that you contribute to the development of others is beyond comparison. And although I appreciate and respect linguists and regular convention speakers, it is usually front line teachers who share the most original and practical ideas. Thanks for sharing those tips. I’m sure many newbies will be inspired :-)

  4. Thank you Sophia! I am looking forward to attending presentations from front line teachers! They are the ones who pioneer innovation on a large scale! Thank God, TESOL Greece has many aspiring, young presenters as we saw at the previous convention! :-)