How to deliver a TOK presentation

How to deliver a TOK presentation


Think different

So, you’ve got a great real life situation, your knowledge question is perfectly placed between answerable and wide-reaching, and it leads on to several other secondary knowledge questions. You’re working as a team, and believe in what you’re doing. What happens next?
You have to figure out how to present what you’ve come up with. Again, this depends to a large extent on what you’ve chosen to deal with, but there is one thing you should be striving for: originality. The IB in general, and TOK in particular, is all about thinking outside that box. Try to come up with something that your audience will be engaged by, be it a simple visual aid, or a complex and detailed role-play. Think to yourself what you are most engaged by, and what turns you off, then stick firmly to the former, and avoid the latter like the plague.
The simplest way of giving your presentation is a PowerPoint presentation. There is nothing wrong with this at all, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

  1. Don’t put too much text on individual slides. There are few things so soul-destroying in a class room as seeing paragraphs and paragraphs of small-font notes projected onto the screen at the front of the class. The slides should provide only a summary of what you are saying, and not the other way around.

  2. Make sure you have plenty of attractive and well-designed visuals on your slides. Use animations, embedded videos, or just simple still photographs. Vary them, and don’t always make them obvious, to keep the audience on its toes.

  3. Makes sure you don’t read from the text on the slides. You should have memorized your stuff by the time you talk: there is nothing that smacks of under-preparation so much as a student facing the wall and reading what he sees there.

Of course, there are other ways of doing it. Role plays such as chat-shows, news reports, and imaginary dialogues, all represent effective ways of getting across your points. Dress up. Put up posters. Add music. Involve the audience. Do whatever you need to do to go one step beyond…

Talking to a crowd

Now to the actual presentation. How are you going to deliver your lines? Public speaking is a difficult skill to master, and it has to be said that it comes more naturally to some people than to others. Having said that, there are fairly easy ways in which even the least confident of students can improve the way they communicate with the audience.

Model your public speaking

First, think to yourself what works for you, and what does not. Who are the best communicators you have come across, and who bores you to tears? Why? Emulate the former, and avoid making the mistakes of the latter. Think also of who your audience is. Don’t tell them what they already know; likewise, don’t pitch it beyond their (and your own!) comprehension.

Slowly but surely

Speak slowly. Rushing your lines will not only make your points difficult to understand (and you can’t re-read what has just been said, like in an essay), but also make you feel more nervous. A slow delivery (120 words per minute is about right) will allow you to pronounce the words more clearly, and counter-act your inevitable nerves.

Body language

Think about non-verbal forms of communication as well as the words you are using. Face the audience. Stand up straight. If you are working in a group, don’t all cluster together. Even if you are not feeling confident, try not to show it. Holding something in your hands like a clipboard or set of notes can prevent you from flailing your arms around uncertainly. Eye contact is an effective way of engaging those listening to you, as is moving closer to those listening to you.

Engage your audience

Consider handouts and other aids that can be given to the audience in order to get them involved. The more interactive your presentation is, the more the audience will listen and understand what you are saying. Encourage questions to be asked at the end. As has already been said, you can’t lose marks by not being sure about your answers, but you can clarify points, and demonstrate that your understanding of your knowledge issue is solid.

Be a professional

You’re aiming for professionalism in your presentation. Imagine you are young entrepreneurs pitching an idea for a new product to an investment company. What would persuade those listening to you to part with their money? You have to know what you’re talking about, believe in it, and be good at spreading your enthusiasm.

Practice makes perfect

Perfect your presentation by practicing them as much as possible. You seriously need to have a dress-rehearsal before you do it ‘for real’, and you need to make sure everyone is absolutely certain about what they will be saying.

Ask a question about the TOK presentation

If you have a question about the TOK presentation, either write to us using the form below, or post it on our Facebook forum. We will respond to the best questions we receive.
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Cite this page as: Dunn, Michael. How to deliver a TOK presentation (16th May 2013). Last accessed: 19th March 2018


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