Engaging the audience

The audience is most likely to be engaged if they have a reason to pay attention and if the presenter makes the presentation interesting.

Giving the audience a reason to pay attention

Homework and quizzes encourage students to pay attention to each other’s presentations.

In student-taught classes, homework and quizzes may seem inappropriate because students are supposed to be self-motivated learners working together to learn the material. A possible middle ground in these classes is for the students to write questions for each other:

Examples of strategies

Strategies for giving engaging presentations

There seems to be no simple recipe for giving an engaging presentation. The following strategies can contribute to making a presentation engaging:

  • Know the audience and what they are likely to find interesting.
  • Choose interesting content.
  • Rather than presenting the content to the audience, anticipate how the audience is likely to think and craft the “presentation” to guide the audience to understanding.
  • Remain focused on the content of interest, and omit unnecessary detail.
  • Use a conversational tone to connect with the audience.

Teaching students to give engaging presentations is similarly challenging. A good start is to encourage students to decide for themselves what sorts of math presentations they find to be engaging. For teaching strategies, see the page Giving a lecture or workshop about presenting.

You can encourage students to try to give engaging presentations by rewarding engaging presentations when grading. See, for example, this presentation rubric, which describes the characteristics of acceptable, good, and excellent presentations.

Please feel free to contribute materials about how to give engaging presentations or how to teach students to do so.

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CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)

What is Math Comm

MAA Mathematical Communication (mathcomm.org) is a developing collection of resources for engaging students in writing and speaking about mathematics. The site originated in the MIT Department of Mathematics and was expanded through support from an NSF grant.