by Lisa Kollross
My next theoretical semester at the DHWB Heilbronn seemed like it was going to echo all those that came before—months crammed with theory followed by an intensive exam phase of 2 weeks in which I have to pass 8-10 written exams.
I was prepared for my standard routine of learning all the scripts, slides and even my own notes by heart, so I can make the grade. But I was mistaken, because, despite the exam phases at DHBW being stressful, they are anything but that monotonous.
Besides (mostly) written exams, we are faced with papers that we have to write, group tasks and presentations. It’s presentations in particular where I have gained some useful experience and I would like to share that with you in this blog. At the end of our fourth semester, we were told by one of our lecturers that the course they were teaching would entail a group presentation—to be held without using PowerPoint. It was clear from the start that we were going to have to be innovative.
After some brainstorming, we decided to blaze a new trail by moving away from our usual crutch—IT and multimedia—and instead to opt for a traditional blackboard and flip chart approach. But because this struck us as a bit too “vanilla”, we decided to turn the presentation into a role play.
Grabbing the professor’s attention was our intention from the get-go, so we skipped the introduction and started out by playing a scene between a sales person and a customer to resemble a regular sales situation. We used the blackboard for keywords and symbols to provide some orientation, which, along with all the other elements, found their way onto the flip chart and provided some coherency. The amazing thing about it was that the listeners weren’t oversaturated with information, but instead taken along on a journey—step by step. This made it easier for them to follow and to understand.
Besides giving a good talk, preparation is key. Once a group presentation is on the agenda, it’s helpful to do some research before brainstorming with the others. This helps to develop ideas and to polish what you have so that you can move straight on to implementation.
Keep a watchful eye on the context, the topic and your lecturer’s requirements when designing the presentation. A role play might not always be the best option—perhaps a PowerPoint presentation is more suited after all.
The success of a presentation depends heavily on how you feel on the big day. Choose an outfit you feel both comfortable and confident in and that suits the occasion. Take the time to run through the presentation over and over again and to speak in your own words, as it will help you to open up and feel a lot more natural to the audience. Present in front of your friends and siblings and then ask them for feedback.
So much for my tips on presentations.
It was a roller-coaster ride for sure. What happened? Just before it was our turn to present a fellow student called us and told us that instead of choosing a situation from the perspective of a company, we should take a more neutral perspective. Our role play was from the perspective of a Bechtle salesperson. So, what did we do? We started to panic and even thought about quitting—but we knew we couldn’t. Instead, we made some final adjustments, by changing the role of the salesperson, removing the Bechtle logo and making some of the statements sound more neutral.
You’re probably wondering how it went. The presentation turned out to be a huge success, and all the commotion had pushed us to perform beyond our limits. We were proud and very content to have mastered the challenge.
The most important thing is to stay calm and believe in yourself, no matter what happens leading up to presentation. At the end of the day, it’s only an exam, and a valuable learning experience at worst.
I wish you the best of luck and many great ideas,