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ToE TIG Week: Effective Presentations by Dana Wanzer

Greetings from the land of the Anishinaabe people, referred to by colonizers as Menomonie, WI. My name is Dana Wanzer, PhD, and I teach evaluation in our MS in Applied Psychology program at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Today I’m sharing how I approach teaching effective presentation skills in my evaluation courses.

Being a good presenter is an important skill for evaluators, but students often have anxiety around public speaking and presentations. Explicitly teaching about presentation skills may be an overlooked skill set when preparing evaluators, but it’s easy to integrate into your classroom and will result in higher quality presentations.

The following is the general lesson plan for how I teach presentation skills in our evaluation foundations course, in which students are learning what evaluation is while designing an evaluation for a client.

1. Read about and discuss effective presentations

Students read and discuss resources on effective presentations on Perusall, a platform for social reading. A lot of this reading is aimed toward discussing basic components of good presentations and overcoming misconceptions (e.g., debunking the “1 minute per slide” rule).

The following are the Rad Resources I share with them to get them started thinking about good presentations:

Together, we discuss the essential need to attend critically to our audience in all the work we do. The audience of an APA paper is going to be different from the audience for our evaluation report for a local nonprofit—and that means our communication, reporting, and presenting will differ too.

2. Watch and evaluate example presentations

Students can usually remember poorly done presentations from the past, so I focus more on good presentations. The videos from Echo Rivera and p2i are all examples of good presentations, but my graduate assistant and I also do live presentations during class to demonstrate these skills in front of students. For example, we present past evaluation proposal presentations, conference presentations, or presentations on select evaluation topics. That way we can discuss choices that my graduate assistant and I made in the presentation and view the behind-the-scenes look of the slides themselves.

3. Develop their own presentations

At the end of the semester in my course, students present their final proposal to their client, so it’s important they get a lot of practice before then to do presentations. They have two practice presentations before the final presentation. First, they present their logic models to the class, demonstrating their understanding of the organization and getting feedback on their logic models from other students. Second, they do a mock presentation of their entire evaluation proposal to the class to get feedback before doing the real thing in front of their client, usually 1-2 weeks later. For these practice runs, I have students evaluate their own and each other’s presentations to practice reflecting on their performance, giving constructive feedback, and identifying areas for improvement.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below what other strategies or tools you use to teach presentation skills to your students! 

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Teaching of Evaluation TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the ToE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “ToE TIG Week: Effective Presentations by Dana Wanzer”

  1. Thank you for this post, Dana. I’m working to incorporate more opportunities for students to present in my courses. And your post inspires me to think creatively about ways to do it. I’m also interested in ways to include meaningful practice of facilitation skills and would love to hear how you and others integrate this.

    1. I teach facilitation skills briefly in our interpersonal effectiveness course. I really liked this resource that I assigned previously (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main) but if I were to incorporate it more fully I would probably assign this book because it’s light reading but I think goes into the skills more fully (http://www.facilitationmagic.com/). I’m going to have my evaluation students facilitate article discussions a few times this semester to give them some practice that facilitation process a little bit, which I think is critical to learn how to facilitate well.

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