Think before you speak – a new online way to teach presentation skills

Brophy, Barry (2014) Think before you speak – a new online way to teach presentation skills. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


One of the key strengths of a presentation is it live-ness. Unlike nearly all other forms of communication, presentations are interactive allowing the communicator to make a real connection with the audience. However, many presenters shun this opportunity. They give presenter-centred (as opposed to audience-centred) talks dominated by a PowerPoint slideshow. Indeed, most people use PowerPoint to author their presentations in the first place, which makes the presenter a slave to his or her own slides. In UCD we have developed a new online 5-credit 'Technical Communication' module focused on oral presentations. Apart from two on-campus meetings to deliver finished assignments, all of the material-delivery and group work is conducted online. One benefit that has arisen from this approach is that participants are encouraged to think through the Who, Why and How of each presentation before they start gathering material or preparing slides. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this may be a better way for people to absorb the key insights and think both logically and creatively through the task. It may seem ironic that a live-skill like presenting can be taught effectively through a predominantly online course but that has proven to be the case. In this talk, I will explain how this online course is in harmony with a general truism of oral presentation: clear presenting comes from clear thinking.

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