10 Secrets of Successful Inservice Presentations

AnnetteB ToddWby Todd Whitaker & Annette Breaux

Busy school leaders need an easy-to-apply resource to increase teacher effectiveness quickly and efficiently. We wrote our book The Ten Minute Inservice to help principals, instructional coaches, teacher leaders and other staff developers to improve teaching school-wide through high-impact professional learning experiences lasting only ten minutes—incorporated easily into weekly staff meetings.

In the book, we offer 40 teacher-tested, mini-workshops that cover a range of topics, from behavior challenges and parent engagement to motivating students and making lessons meaningful.

In the concluding section we share a 10-point checklist that can help ensure succcessful inservice presentations, whatever the topic.

1. Be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm can make or break a presentation. If you’ve ever attended an inservice presented by a less than enthusiastic presenter, you know this to be true. Regardless of the content and the speaker’s knowledge, a lackluster presenter will lose his audience every time. After all, if the speaker doesn’t seem to buy what he’s selling, why should the audience?

adult class discussion 3002. Share personal stories. One of your main jobs, as a presenter, is to connect with your audience. And there’s no better way to do that than to share a few personal anecdotes. People will remember a personal story much more readily than they will remember research or data. For instance, if you’re teaching teachers the importance of maintaining their composure with their students, you might wish to share a story about a time when you failed to maintain your composure. Tell about what happened before, during, and after you lost your cool. Tell what you wish you would have done differently. By doing this, you now have your audience thinking, “Hey, he’s a real person who has made real mistakes and has learned real lessons. I can relate to that!”

3. Prepare! No matter how long you have been presenting, you cannot “wing it” – not successfully, anyway. Audiences can always tell when a presenter is or is not prepared. Although you don’t want to read from a script, you do want to have an outline that is well prepared and that will keep you on point with your message. Practice your presentation beforehand. In this case, the mirror is your friend. Practice delivering your content, practice varying your tone of voice when you make specific points, and practice using positive body language! You want to come across as well prepared, approachable, believable, positive, passionate, and confident.

tch conf crop 3004. Make it relevant. People have no interest in learning about things that they don’t feel hold personal meaning or relevance. In order for your audience to realize the importance of your message, they must feel that your message is relevant to them, today! Don’t assume that they will automatically make the connection and see the relevance in your message. Spell it out for them. Tell them exactly how they can use the information or skills in their lives.

5. Make eye contact! Effective presenters speak directly to the audience, deliberately attempting to make eye contact with each attendee. This helps each person to feel as though the speaker is speaking directly to him or her, cementing that oh-so-important personal connection between “teacher” and “students.”

6. Laugh! Effective presenters know the importance of injecting humor into their presentations. They want the audience to enjoy the presentation and to feel at ease. An occasional funny story or corny joke can help accomplish this.

7. Involve your audience. Be careful not to talk “at” your audience. From start to finish, you want audience participation. That participation can take on many forms – discussions, questions, activities, and so on. An engaged audience is much more likely to absorb the ideas and information you are sharing.

young speaker 3008. Walk your talk. Audiences want to feel as though a presenter can relate to them, is sympathetic to their situations, and has “been there and done that.” If you’re addressing a group of teachers and discussing the importance of laughing with their students, yet you appear serious and are not laughing with your audience, you won’t get much buy-in. If your actions are incongruent with your words, your actions will win every time. So model the behavior you want to see in your audience.

9. Make the lessons you teach simple and doable. When you present information in a way that seems simple and doable, the audience is more apt to listen intently, consider the information you are sharing, and attempt to implement the new ideas, tips, and strategies you have shared in your presentation. If, in contrast, something you share seems difficult or time-consuming, your audience will quickly go into “overwhelm mode” and disconnect. So teach in small bites, just as effective teachers do in the classroom. You want your audience leaving you thinking, “I can do this!”

10. Ask for feedback, and use the feedback. Let your audience know that what they think matters! Address all of their comments with thoughtfulness and appreciation, even in the event that the comment is disagreeable.


[Adapted from The Ten-Minute Inservice: 40 Quick Training Sessions That Build Teacher Effectiveness by Todd Whitaker & Annette Breaux (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, San Francisco, CA . 2013.]

10 minute inserviceAnnette Breaux is a former classroom teacher, curriculum leader and professional development coordinator in Louisiana, where she developed FIRST, an influential teacher induction program. Breaux is a popular speaker on education topics, author of 101 Answers for New Teachers and Their Mentors, and co-author of several books with Todd Whitaker, including Seven Simple Secrets50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior, and Making Good Teaching Great. Follow her on Twitter @AnnetteBreaux.

Todd Whitaker is a professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University and a prominent education author and speaker. Whitaker has taught at the middle and high school levels, served as a secondary school principal for eight years and as a district-level middle school coordinator. His many books include Leading School ChangeWhat Great Principals Do DifferentlyWhat Great Teachers Do Differently and The 10-Minute Inservice. Follow him on Twitter @ToddWhitaker.


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