You only get one chance to make a good first impression. If you’re able to prepare for your presentations, to anticipate any questions and to thoroughly practice what you’re going to say, then you’re going to do great! On the other hand, if you have any self doubt you need to be able to overcome it before it’s time to present. Otherwise, your nervousness will be picked up by the audience in an instant.
Teachers are presenters
If there’s one group of people who know about presenting, it’s teachers. Teachers give presentations all day, every day. They guide us down the path of knowledge and their leadership sets the tone for how well we learn. We remember our great teachers, and we also remember the ones who weren’t so good. Recently, I got two very different first impressions of my son’s new teachers during an orientation at his new school.
Most of the classrooms are equipped with Smart Boards, touch-sensitive screens that act both as a monitor and a whiteboard. So each teacher gave a brief presentation during the orientation, and most used PowerPoint. Here are my impressions of two teachers who really stood out.
The Confident Educator
One teacher we met, Mr. B, was looking sharp in his button-down shirt, tie, and neatly pressed pants. The fact that he was dressed for work demonstrated to me that he took his job and this orientation seriously.
He started his presentation off with a smile by showing a funny movie trailer he’d made about his geography class. It had a great soundtrack and visuals and got people laughing. After that, he talked about how he was going to teach the students how to be independent thinkers and how to get organized. He described how current events would be woven into the curriculum and he encouraged students to bring their own ideas to class. His PowerPoint presentation contained good information and enough animation to make it interesting.
Mr. B was energetic, moving around the room and engaging the audience. He gave us parents his email address and told us that he usually responds to messages within two hours.
We were only in his classroom for about ten minutes, but by the end of the presentation I wished that I were going to be in Mr. B’s geography class!
The Doubtful Educator
After Mr. B’s presentation, it was off to Ms. D’s science class. The difference between the two teachers could not have been more striking.
Ms. D’s appearance was very different from that of Mr. B. She was dressed casually, with jeans and a loose-fitting brown knit shirt. As she spoke, she held a sheaf of paper in her hand and didn’t come out from behind the workbench at the front of the room.
Ms. D began her presentation by telling us that up until the end of the previous school year she had been teaching PhysEd for the past 12 years and that she got switched to science that summer. She explained that while she had taught science for 8 years prior to that, a lot of things had changed since then. “There’s a lot more technology now,” she told us. “This is new for me, too.” (Is it fair that Ms. D got switched from teaching PhysEd to science? Probably not, but with school budgets the way they are it was likely a money-saving decision to transfer from within rather than make a new hire.)
She then proceeded to hold up a thick textbook and told us that it was the same one that her own kids had used. ‘It’s old,” she explained.
Ms. D’s PowerPoint was static and lifeless and offered no more a glimpse into her personality than a page from a phone book.
She concluded her presentation by pointing at some posters that were stuck to the front of her workbench and asking us to read them and take their messages to heart. No matter that they were blocked from view by the students who sat in front of them.
Both teachers broadcast clear messages by their appearance, their actions, and their attitudes.
Mr. B was prepared, confident, and knowledgeable. He worked the Smart Board like a champ, brought current events into the mix, and challenged his students to work hard to learn skills they could use for the rest of their lives. His message: “I will help you to succeed.”
Ms. D seemed overwhelmed and unprepared to execute her new responsibilities. She complained about the technology and teaching materials and didn’t engage her audience. Her message: “Let’s just get through this.”
These teachers have all year to demonstrate whether or not my first impressions of them were correct. But it’s these first impressions that are often the most lasting.