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Teaching = Presenting: 5 Quick Tips

Teachers are in many ways like performers. We have to stand up in front of a class and get the attention of a class of up to 40 kids, who may or may not be so interested in what we have to say. We educate them, entertain them, facilitate them, and hopefully spark their interest to further broaden their own knowledge on what you have just presented to them.

Outside of just teaching your classes, sometimes other forms of presenting or public speaking are involved - self introductions and goodbye speeches at assemblies, culture presentations, reflection speeches at nomikai, model speeches at speech contests… and sometimes we have to do these things in Japanese!

Even teachers who are comfortable in the classroom can freeze up on a larger stage. Here are some tips for being the most effective speaker you can, both in and out of class.

1. Know your material

If it’s a lesson, plan it out in detail beforehand and visualise how it will go. Make note of how things might also go wrong and have alternative solutions ready. If it’s a speech or presentation, practice until you’ve got it memorised. The more secure you are in what you’re talking about, the more secure you will look to your class or audience. A good rule of thumb is to be prepared enough to teach/present the same thing in four different ways.

2. Know the audience

Think about what they want from you. Is it to be informed, be entertained, or be convinced? If you tailor your material and level of English/Japanese to the audience, they will respond better, and you will feel more confident. In the classroom setting, this is why it is so important to know your students on a personal level - know their interests, know what sorts of activities work or not, know who can or can get along with who, etc.

3. Run your speech by someone else

Have you ever double or triple checked your work, and then in the end realise that there are still some typos here and there, or that some things just don't sound quite right? A second pair of eyes is always a good idea. Run your speech by a native Japanese speaker, preferably one who knows the level of your audience. If the speech is in Japanese, they can check any pronunciation, vocabulary and/or grammar issues. If it’s in English, they can tell you if any sections are particularly hard to understand, if the humour falls flat, or if you’re speaking too quickly. A second or third pair of eyes will also pick out any typos in your speech notes and/or slide presentation. If you don't have anyone to help you out with here, an alternative is to video record yourself, then watch and see where things need improving or changing.

4. Relax and be confident

Hopefully, your students/audience wants you to succeed, so do what it takes for you to be feel your best. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident. Remember to breathe and smile. If you have some sort of ritual that helps you relax before presentations (like going for a walk, having a cup of coffee, meditating, giving yourself a pep talk, etc), be sure to give yourself enough time throughout the day's schedule.

5. Don’t be tripped up by mistakes

If you make a mistake in a presentation or if a lesson doesn't go as planned, it’s not the end of the world. Most likely it’s less than an hour of your life. Remain focused and continue with the speech or class as if nothing had happened. Sometimes the audience doesn't even notice that you slipped up! Use the failure as a learning experience and make your next one better. Putting things in perspective will lessen the pressure you feel.

Good luck with all your classes, speeches, and presentations!

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