A couple of days ago I reflected on what it takes to win a student Startup Pitch competition. I decided to follow-up with 5 practical ideas on what we as educators can learn from such an event: how can we make in-class student presentations more ‘pitch-like’ (i.e. passionate and engaged)?
We could give students the freedom to pick the topics that they are excited about. You may already be doing it, in which case, you may have noticed a higher investment and ownership compared to topics that have been pre-selected for students. If ‘complete freedom’ is not optimal for your teaching context, consider giving students the option of customizing their topic.
Having a good idea is not enough. Students need to communicate it effectively using different media. While it’s not feasible to spend class time covering presentation or data visualization tools, you can refer students to bite-sized videos on presenting skills (produced by our own Natalie Spence and her colleagues), or videos from Lynda.com (did you know it’s now available to all Macquarie staff and students?).
The pitch contestants had opportunities to practice their pitches and get feedback on them, which helped them to identity their strong and weak areas. Consider a ‘practice’ presentation where tutors or peers could provide feedback. You can also provide students with this handout that will help them practice.
One difference between Shark tanks and the Startup Pitch competition is consistently friendly feedback. Even though the judges were critical, they managed to convey their feedback in a non-threatening and encouraging way. Being in the audience, I kept thinking that judges would make excellent lecturers and tutors. One might argue that judges in ‘real’ startup competitions are probably tougher. They probably are, but it’s much harder to learn from being humiliated, than from being encouraged (see this resource on providing feedback).
We (the audience) got to vote for the teams that we liked the most –a practice that can easily be replicated in the classroom environment. If one team is presenting, get others to grade them on different criteria, and (ideally) justify their grading. It’ll develop students’ critical skills.
Do you have any thoughts and ideas on how to make in-class presentations more exciting? Leave your comments below!