George Lucas Educational Foundation

Harness Your Presentation Strengths to Sway the Crowd

Harness Your Presentation Strengths to Sway the Crowd

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I'm not a very charismatic speaker when I get in front of large audiences. I can articulate my points, move around the room, and make eye contact with my audience, but I don't hold sway over people like many powerful speakers (I'm thinking of people like Harry Wong and Sir Ken Robinson). Instead, I've come to rely on the two strengths that after 22 years of speaking in front of crowds (and that includes kids) I've finally recognized: 1. I am passionate about the things about which I speak. 2. I have a knack for being able to use striking media that resonantly illustrates my ideas. I am expressive in different ways when I speak to teachers, parents, or kids. I'll use hand gestures, drastic intonation, and movement around a room to show my sincerity and excitement about my points. No one can deny my passion, but I follow-up my talk (and it's usually brief talk) with a short video or series of pictures and images that "speak" to my points. I like using movie clips or inspirational videos that resonate the theme of my talk. Find your presentation strengths. Don't try to be the speaker you're not. Hold sway over the crowd however you can, and you'll get your point across just as well.

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Hi Scott, thanks for sharing this tips. I think it would help illustrate your points if you shared examples. Do you have a presentation that you can link to? What about the images or movies?

Dr. Scott Taylor's picture
Dr. Scott Taylor
Superintendent- Highland Park Public Schools; Adjunct Professor at Rutgers and Montclair Universities; Ironman Triathlon All World Athlete 2015


You should check out the "Resources" menu of videos on my website- I have used snippets from "Gratitude," the work of Sir Ken Robinson and others. Also consider the following book as a fun resource for movie clips that speak to certain themes:

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I love using videos when I present, but often find that bandwidth and filtering software make it a tricky proposition when I'm working in schools. Having a Plan B (or downloading the files onto my computer first) is always well advised. :-)

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

Scott, two things - based on your post, I'd say charisma is the last thing you need to worry about. Sounds like you are comfortable on stage, speak about topics you know well, know how to use media effectively, and enjoy doing it. So ... charisma? As we say here in Jersey (and you know all too well) ... fuggedaboutit!

Second, one thing you didn't mention was to beware of using humor. Done poorly, it's one of the quickest and easiest ways to blow a presentation (and lose an audience). Done well, it's very effective, but, in my experience, humor is best left to those who are truly funny, understand comedic timing, etc. In other words, not your typical presenter!

Great post!


Dr. Scott Taylor's picture
Dr. Scott Taylor
Superintendent- Highland Park Public Schools; Adjunct Professor at Rutgers and Montclair Universities; Ironman Triathlon All World Athlete 2015


I always download the videos (as you suggest) and find VLC software (a freebie) to be the most effective tool for grabbing YouTube videos and converting them to a self-contained format!

Dr. Scott Taylor's picture
Dr. Scott Taylor
Superintendent- Highland Park Public Schools; Adjunct Professor at Rutgers and Montclair Universities; Ironman Triathlon All World Athlete 2015


Thanks for the very good point about humor. I am not a stand-up! I find myself invoking "cutesy" comments and stories about my personal like (particularly about my family) with a self-deprecating bent in my presentations.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I've made it a bit of a science to study other speakers to try to perfect my own presentations. A couple of quick points:
- If you use slides, keep them as visual as possible and with as few words as possible. People cant listen to you and read your slides at the same time- it's like trying to read and talk on the phone at the same time- neither penetrates as well, because both are calling on the language centers in the brain.
-A general theme helps keep your points connected; making more than three to five big points will lose your audience. Less is more.
-the more visual your presentation, the more liberty you can take with answering questions, adding or subtracting stories for time, management, etc. The slides work as memory prompts, and you avoid reading a prepared speech to an audience.
-Practice, and write it down. Whenever I prep a presentation, I do the slides, let it sit for a day or so, and go back, flipping through the slides and writing the presentation down, to follow the slides. This allows me to visualize what I'm saying, check for transitions, add and subtract when needed, etc. and I have notes to review or look at if I need them during the presentation.

this is what works for me- your mileage may vary, but i've found it allows me to be more natural and engaging, and less wedded to my slidedeck, so if anything goes wrong with the tech, I can still present, no problem.

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