Developing Presentation Skills: Time to Shine

During our summer schools, we want to help students develop a wide range of skills to help in their development and to prepare them for future study. This is something that we put at the centre of our educational approach. Our Academic Director, Andy, speaks to us about our “Time to Shine” projects and shares his presentation skills tips for students.

Can you give us an overview of what Time to Shine is?

At Summer Boarding Courses, every student receives a Time to Shine project. In this project, the student has to research and prepare a presentation, talk, debate or another type of spoken performance on their given subject. These talks are then given in front of their classmates, and a selected number are then given in front of the entire summer school. It’s fun and a great way to develop presentation skills.

For Younger Learners at Headington Oxford, we don’t ask them to research and prepare a presentation, as we don’t feel their age is quite ready for such a challenge. Instead, we have ‘team challenges’ for them where they have to work together to make something very cool, like a working model car, a stable bridge made of spaghetti or other such creative things.

Why did you want to introduce it to our summer schools as part of the academic programmes?

The student’s experience of being at a Summer Boarding Courses school should be about using English as much as possible. Students have had 9 months of studying English behind their desks in their schools at home. We want students to do something which is really interesting, really proactive, really intelligent and really social. We want them to get to know their classmates as much as possible in their Time to Shine challenges and to work together to achieve something memorable. An English Summer School is a fantastic opportunity to do this! It’s our time to shine!

What skills will students develop through Time to Shine?

Lots! Get your time to shine and so much more than conventional classroom activities will develop. Firstly, students will learn about how to work together in teams, as many Time to Shine projects are done in groups. Secondly, students will learn how to find out information, and how to use the best and most relevant parts of that information in their projects – we can call this research skills and critical thinking skills. Thirdly, students will develop their skills in speaking with confidence and how to develop presentaion skills. All of the challenges involve communicating, and many involve giving a presentation. When students do this, they’ll realise that they can make something incredible, and in English too!

What has been your favourite Time to Shine moment at an SBC Summer School?

At Headington Oxford last year, one of our Time to Shine themes was ‘how to make the world a happier place’. I witnessed students from all around the world work together to present ideas on how the world can be changed for the better, and their ideas were wonderful. It was just amazing to see such diverse cultural groups bond together over shared ideas of how the world can move forward in peace, harmony and prosperity.

What are your top tips for students delivering a presentation?

These would be my best tips:

Don’t memorise a script

It’s impossible to do this, but sometimes students want to – however, this way the student focuses more on remembering the individual words and sentences than on engaging with the audience. Instead, learn the headlines, and be flexible. Sometimes the words that come out of your mouth aren’t quite what you intend, but that’s fine.

Be confident

And if you can’t be confident, pretend to be confident. Nobody can tell the difference.

Connect with your audience

Don’t talk at them, talk with them! Involve them, engage with them, ask them questions, make it interactive. You’ll be sure to have their attention.

Talk to the person at the back of the room

Even if it’s a really big room, make sure your voice (or the microphone) can easily get to the back of that room – you don’t want to let a great presentation down by not being heard.

Have a Plan B

If you’re using a computer, make sure you have a Plan B. So often in life, your technology will have a mind of its own just when you need it most. Make sure you’re prepared to go solo if you have to, whilst developing a presentation and performing it.

Be as Relaxed as you can

Just as with handling wild animals: don’t make sudden movements. Keep yourself relaxed, your body language natural, your head up, and your speech and movement confident and fluid.

There are also lots of places online where you can find more fantastic advice for giving presentations.