I have just evaluated and graded some 20+ presentation exams, a few more to come next week. This is a busy time of year and a good time to rethink what works, and what does not.

Paper works.

During the planning stage of a talk, I love to use long strips of card board, those good old-fashioned Metaplan strips.


»This has saved my life,« one of my students said today.

She is talented and smart, and tends to get lost in enthusiasm and ideas. A real Miss What’s-the-Point. In our pre-finals coaching we talked about choreography, beginnings, and endings. And planning on paper.

In her final talk, she is precise, to the point, yet has lost nothing of her vivid self. It is a pleasure listening.

Plan analog. Plan analog. Plan analog.


I still plan every class, every seminar, every workshop that way, and as no one but yourself will ever see this, it does not matter what code you use, and if you mix up your languages, as I tend to. So for all my international readers: Bild means Image.

Green is for reserve ideas. As a young teacher I had to learn that by heart the hard way: You need a didactic reserve.  

[And boy, did I need one that day, back in 1989, during my teacher practice. I was teaching Medieval lyrics to a bunch of 16-year-olds and I just did not know how to go on and had to hand over to my supervisor.]

That was the day I learned to believe in reserves and back-ups. Some 20 years later I also believe in experience and creative thinking, but then that trust is nothing but another kind of hard-earned reserve.

So: Have another video, another game, another question up your sleeve. A reserve can be anything. It can be a flip chart in case the projector dies or if a video does not play. It can be going for coffee with your class if it is too hot to think.

Plan backwards.


Good stories need good endings. Endings, on the other hand, are nervous, twitching cat tails with a life of their own.

So plan backwards: Where do you want your audience to be in 20 minutes? With you? Or gone for a mental walk? If your ending is wrong, you will need to start all over again.

Make ends meet.


Make sure your beginning and ending is connected, related, one of a kind: Start with a question and end with an answer. Start with a problem and show the solution. Start with a quote and end on a counter-quote. There is always a counter-quote. You might even begin and end in silence. Have you ever tried that? Silence is a lovely shade of white…

Whatever you do, make sure your presentation is a whole, not a bag of wildly twitching ideas.

Connect. In all possible ways.

Connect ideas. Connect words and images. Connect with your audience. And not just because your teacher told you so.

Grades are for college. Connection is for real.