PRESENT PERFECT(ly) by Rob Howard

presentation lesson hacks


Last year, while having a pint in Curitiba with the boys (my teachers Stephen, Simon and Fionn), Stephen and I were discussing what he had read recently. Sadly, I admitted that I hadn’t had time to read a book in years. Stephen’s advice, which still rings in my ears today, “Read a f*&%in’ book.” Well, I am glad to say that I have and if you are a teacher, you need to read this too. But more about the book later.

I have been doing presentation training since the early days of my career in Sales Management. Of course back then we used flipcharts or the old film strips. I was fortunate enough to have a father who was a member of Toastmasters.

Toastmasters teaches the art of speaking. My father used to bring home the materials and even the learning aids and I, at around 10-years old, studied and practiced the art. Thankfully, I have used this skill throughout my life and for a relatively shy person, I have no problems speaking publicly.


Now growing up in the US, we often have to give presentations from the time we enter school. We have many opportunities to speak before our peers and hone our craft. But moving to Brazil and becoming a teacher, one of the first things that I noticed was the lack of students, teachers, business people and even professional speakers ability to give a good presentation.

I have run several presentation classes with my conversation students over the years, sharing the highlights, the do’s and don’ts, and it has always had a successful outcome for the students. Body language, movement, eye-contact as well as content, pace and delivery are all important factors towards a great presentation.


I am reminded of a national English conference years ago when I was excited to hear a speech by a famous author and guru in the trade. From the get-go, seeing his body language walking on to the stage, I knew I was in for a painstaking ordeal. In the most boring monotone since Richard Nixon in the 60s debates, this expert proceeded to show a black and white PowerPoint presentation with no graphics or pictures, and with about 100 words on each slide. And then he read it. The entire speech was on the screen. Without movement, emotion, or what seemed like even a breath, this went on for the full hour. Had he emailed me the presentation, I might have read it myself and saved at least 30 minutes of my life. I hate to think of how much they paid him for this while the rest of us gave fun, dynamic presentations for free.

Yes, what he had to say was brilliant, yet most of the message was lost in a sea of cacophony of his droning voice, mixed with the grumbling and snoring going on around me. An effective presentation? Not.


While taking to the Dean of a major university the other day, the subject of presentations and public speaking came up. He was lamenting the fact that in the old days, a professor was a professional. When they came to class, they were prepared. Their “speech” was planned, practiced and polished long before they entered the classroom. Today’s professors enter the room asking, “Where did we leave off last class?” Businessmen make presentations worrying about the colors and the font sizes of their PowerPoint, using Prezi to make some crazy motion or where to find the best photo to wow the crowd without giving any regard to what the audience came to hear. The speech. The speaker.

In the days of 21st Century Skills, CLIL, PBL and my favorite PBU (project based usage), which I’m still hoping will catch on, why aren’t we using a skill that needs to be developed at an early stage in learning? Because it isn’t in the book or the syllabus or we don’t have any idea how to go about it.

Now we do.


PRESENTATION LESSON HACKS by Phil Wade is amazing. It is a necessity for anyone teaching advanced language skills and/or presentation skills. The idea of putting the book into a series of hacks is brilliant. It is concise, organized and acts as a daily routine one can easily follow in the classroom while engaging students and giving them the ability to make better quality presentations for the rest of their lives. Presentation skills are life skills that have all but disappeared from the classroom, yet Phil brings a coherent methodology and touches all the bases. Every hack is well thought out and has well planned activities to not only teach these skills, but gives contextualized meaning for the reasons each hack is important to the students. Well written indeed.

The book is available online for only US$2.99 at Smashwords. Also check out PARSNIPS if you work presentation lesson hackswith conversation levels. Phil also has a 10-book series of Business English books for free.

Please, read a f*&%$in’ book. This one.


 000Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center. He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and author for English as a foreign language. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. He is also the founder of EFLtalks, webinars for teachers. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts in the U.S., he is currently residing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You may e-mail him at


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