University presentations: dealing with problem presenters

Find out how to deal with problem presenters at University

Student giving a presentationRarely is anything simple in life. You might have a great topic, lots of resources and lots of time, but even then all it takes is one member of the awkward squad, someone’s who’s lady, or not very bright, or somebody who struggles with English, for things to quickly unravel. Follow these five tips to limit the damage!

Working with Awkward Presenters

Some people are just awkward. Crucially, if somebody has a problem, listen to them, and make clear you’ve heard what they’ve had to say. Propose a solution, or ask for a solution from within the group. If your problem person keeps creating problems, try to bounce them back. How would they deal with it? What further support do they require – is it reasonable, and can it be provided?

Working with Lazy Presenters

If you’re coordinating the groups’ effort, check up on your fellow students from time to time. The best way is probably through facebook where you can disguise your hard-ass task-mastering with gently phrased questions. If you’ve followed the previous guides, the physical work – the preparing of each section – will happen quickly, within the first week or first few weeks, so you will know early on if you might have any problems. If you’re using Powerpoint, set a deadline for when you require everyone’s slides, and if these don’t arrive on time, chase these up. If the worst happens, and you attempt to boot them off your team, copies of these requests will come in handy.

Working with Intellectually Challenged Presenters

The people on your course will have some A’ Levels, or accessed a foundation course, so they should be of reasonable intelligence. Should be. Occasionally you may work with people who struggle, it may be just the elective you’re studying, or it might just be them in general. Ideally, try to work as a team, and support them as much as you reasonably can without affecting your own studies. Remember that a portion of your presentation might be devoted to a series of key quotes or statistics, or a video or sound clip. Consider restructuring the presentation so weaker members have less challenging things to do.

Working with Language Problems

Many academically able students exist who also have English as an additional language. Even the most intelligent of these students will struggle with some aspects of their language use, and delivering presentations can be a really good way to iron out these problems and become fully fluent. A team member with English as an additional language may not need help with the content, but the language, and this can often be resolved as the presentation is being practiced. For students with significant language problems, consider using the same ploy as for those who struggle intellectually, and allocate easier aspects of the presentation to them. Be cautious, however, of being patronising, and only do this if necessary.

If All Else Fails

If there is a member of your group who consistently lets the team down, consider speaking with your lecturer about this. Only do this, however, as a last resort. If, despite many reasonable requests, one group member fails to produce the work for their section of the presentation, fails to attend any meetings or practice sessions, or is simply impossible to work with, flag this up. It may be something your lecturer then looks into, or passes on to their Personal Tutor. If you are going to do this, however, don’t leave this too late, and be prepared to restructure your presentation accordingly if they are taken out of your group.

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