I consider myself to be a strong public speaker. But when it comes to presentations, I feel it is difficult to engage the audience when focusing on one specific topic. This week, I decided to attend an Academic Success workshop on Delivering Effective Presentations: it’s one of a series of free workshops on various topics running every Wednesday evening (with the exception of reading week and the holidays).
The workshops take place on the fourth floor of Robarts, in the Blackburn Room, which can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to look—but it’s not hard to get there. Take the escalators at the centre of the building up as far as they go, or use the one elevator that doesn’t require you to show your TCard to access. Once you’re on the fourth floor, go to the big room between Research and Reference Services (on the left) and the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (on the right).
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop, but I ended up enjoying it! It was in a small group environment, which helped me feel more comfortable and made it easier to engage, answering questions and sharing ideas with the others in the room. The learning strategist from Academic Success first helped us break the ice by having everyone introduce themselves and explain what brought them to the workshop. I was surprised to learn that there were students from all sorts of different academic programs and at different points of their educational journeys. These workshops are designed to help all U of T students, even grad students, which means that everyone can get something out of attending them.
Here’s how the workshop I attended went: we continued by splitting into smaller groups to discuss what makes a good presentation. Everyone contributed their ideas, such as being passionate about the topic, making eye contact, having easy-to-read slides, and so on. By sharing all of our ideas and explaining our choices, we were already adding a level of practice of our presentation skills! Doing this also helped me formulate some ideas on my next presentation in response to what others thought would make it successful. After that, each group presented the ideas that we had generated in another round of practice; I appreciated the chance to use my public speaking in a low-pressure environment. We ended the workshop by discussing a hypothetical case study where someone delivers a seminar and does not know how to answer the audience’s questions. Imaging being in this situation was a bit frightening, to be honest, but doing this let everyone consider how to prepare in order to avoid being stuck there. By discussing our ideas in a group, we were able to produce an “action plan,” just in case we ever end up in that situation.
I really appreciate this workshop for helping me gain a better understanding of what makes an effective presentation, and I like that it didn’t feel like a lecture. I left Robarts that evening with a whole new skill set on how to make effective presentations, and there’s a lot more Academic Success workshops coming up in the future. If you’re interested in going to one, you can find the full list at www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/asc/workshops, and you can register through the Career Learning Network at cln.utoronto.ca. Some of the upcoming topics include Managing Procrastination and Preparing for Exams, which I am sure will be fantastic. Go check them out!