Although you may be very familiar and comfortable presenting all sorts of complex business information within your field, presenting to a group of primary school children can still seem daunting if you haven’t done it before.
But remember that children of primary school age are almost always enthusiastic, keen to learn and ask questions — they will probably be much more engaged than that conference audience you presented to in Birmingham last year!
This document aims to give you a few starting points and some tips on preparing and presenting.
The first thing to do, if you haven’t already, is talk to your Primary Business Partner (PBP) broker, Sarah Glass, to find out what is already known about the school and their requirements. Sarah will also be able to tell you whether you should liaise directly with the school to further plan and refine your session, or whether she or another business representative will be your point of contact.
Making Arrangements with the School
In one sense this will probably be familiar territory for you — but make sure you get the details clear. Again, your PBP broker is there to help you with this:
- The name of the teacher, date, times and, most importantly for your planning, the number and age of the children you will be working with. Also, how long will the session be?
- Talk to the teacher and get as much information as possible on what they are expecting from you and tell them what you can offer — this will mean you will feel comfortable and the school will be happy.
- If you think you would like to use IT equipment, talk to the school first and make sure that they can enable this.
- Is there a ‘quiet signal’ that students are used to responding to?
Planning the Presentation
Some key points:
- Limit the amount of information that you put in the presentation — these are young brains! Around 20 – 30 minutes is reckoned to be the attention span of primary school children.
- Leave plenty of time at the end for questions and answers.
- Take a little risk and add some humour — bring out a puppet, tell a simple joke — or use deadpan humour if you aren’t comfortable with acting the fool.
- Make it personal whenever you can — personal stories and reference points will make the session more engaging. The children will be interested in you as a person as well as the job you do. They will love to hear about your hobbies and other interests.
- Promote learning if you can — if education has helped you succeed then include a story about how your school learning was worthwhile.
- Pitching it right — find out from the school if the pupils know anything already about your topic.
- Make it interactive — there are lots of ways of doing this:
- Equipment and visual aids will often engage children more than any words can. If there are physical objects that you can bring along then all the better.
- Try and provide opportunities for one or two students (or more) to help you with tasks.
- Have lots of questions ready to keep the children engaged. You can enliven these a bit with techniques like ‘thumbs up’ for yes and ‘thumbs down’ for no.
- If you can, have some short activities planned so if things are flagging a bit, you can easily liven it up quickly.
- Send to the school in advance of your presentation any electronic presentations that you plan to use — that way, the school can have the equipment and presentation all set up for when you arrive.
- Another thing to have ready in case you feel it’s appropriate is a follow-up task. This could be something you ask the children to do at the end of the session and send to you (via the school) when complete.
- If you think a particular arrangement of the room will work best, ask the school — desks are moved all the time in Primary School so it’s no big deal — if a circle on the floor will work best, go with that. If going outside would help, try and do that.
On the Day
OK, this stuff should be straightforward but it bears repeating:
- Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, settle in and get organised. The school should have someone there to meet you.
- During the presentation, be yourself. Speak openly and be honest about your experiences. Don’t forget to give good eye contact. If you make a mistake, don’t sweat it — just laugh and move on.
- Talk slowly — OK, this advice applies to all presentations but it is particularly important for this age group — if you go too fast, you will quickly lose your audience.
- Avoid inappropriate language — and by this, we don’t just mean four-letter words — don’t get too complex and don’t use management-speak. If you have to use complex terms, stop and explain what they mean. Also, these pupils hopefully still live in an acronym-free world — let’s keep it that way!
- Although we expect adults to sit still and at least look like they are paying attention during a presentation, children are different — they may appear to be tuning you out, may draw or even get up and walk around. Don’t be offended and don’t worry about it. This could be how they learn best.
- It may be that, despite your planning, the questions and interest from the pupils has taken you in a slightly different direction. That’s OK!
- The member of staff assisting you will know the children well and will manage any behavioural issues. They can also help you out if things aren’t going so well. It might be worth agreeing a signal between the two of you (2 knocks on a desk? Saying the teacher’s name?) if you need help with this.
- Afterwards, take a breath and ask the staff for feedback. Have a think if there are other ways that you (or your employer) could engage with this school and help the teachers and pupils.
You’ve done a great thing — the Primary Business Partnership wants to help you shout about it! The PBP website has a blog where all participating schools and companies can write about their experiences. Please add yours to the list!
The guidance above draws on these documents: (links open in a new window )
Inspiring the Future
Tips for Volunteers in Primary Schools
Giving a presentation to School Kids
Business in the Community Scotland
Business Engagement in Early Years Toolkit
NASA Precipitation Programme
Best Practice Presenting in Primary Schools
The Humane Society
Tips for Presenting to Children
Careers Service New Zealand
Giving great school presentations