This semester I'm teaching three classes on presentation for undergraduates at my university in Japan. On the second day, I have students share with the class what they think are the elements of a good presentation and what they think are the kinds of things that make for a bad or ineffective presentation. Students may still be quite young, but they have sat through years of classes in school and lectures in college, sat through orientation meetings, and they have seen many kinds of presentations online such as TED talks over the years, so students actually do have quite a bit of experience with various kinds of presentations.
I use a slide like this or just write something similiar on the whiteboard. "Think about the best and the worst presentations you have ever seen. What's the difference? What made the good ones good and the bad ones bad from your point of view? What are the elements of a good presentation, including visuals (if any), preparation, delivery, etc. What was happening during the presentations that you identified as 'bad'?"
For the activity I ask students to break up into groups of 4-5 to share their ideas—based on their experience—on what makes for a good presentation and what makes for a bad presentation. I give them about 20 minutes. One person in each group keeps notes using a t-chart with "Good" on one side and "Bad" on the other. Before this we discuss a bit on what we mean by "Good." A good or effective presentation, from the point of few of the audience, being one where the audience was engaged and learned something, but also was motivated, or inspired, etc. in addition to being informed. After students have discussed their ideas and they have a "good/bad" list, they then put that info on the walls around the room, edit as they like, and then finally share their ideas with the rest of the class.
There is no right or wrong answer for the exercise I tell them. The point is to share their ideas based on their real-life experience and to get a conversation started, a discussion that will last the entire semester. The point of the exercise, besides being a good icebreaker, is to introduce many of the concepts we will be talking about for the next 15 weeks, but in this case the ideas are coming from them, not just from "a professor" at the front of the room. "You know this stuff all ready" I tell them, but there is a difference between knowing it and having the skills—and eventually the courage—to actually do it. The students identify many classic elements of a good presentation of talk. Below is a list of some of the more common elements identified by the students. This is a rough assembly of the items that students, numbering more than 100 in total came up with. Each element is quite commonsensical, perhaps, but common sense is not common practice. We'll spend the reset of the semester learning the principles, techniques, and practices of 21st-century presentation.
Elements of a "Good" & "Bad" presentation
Here is a list that a group of about one hundred young Japanese college students came up with this week.
• Start with interesting hook
• Rambling, boring, slow start
Students listing their ideas on the whiteboard. Then we have a class discussion on what they think are the most important elements and why. A chance to share the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly based on their own experience.