Volunteers and Invasive Plants: Learning and Lending a Hand link

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
America's National Wildlife Refuge System

Volunteers and Invasive Plants: Learning and Lending a Hand

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Public Outreach

Tips For A Great Presentation


Giving a great presentation, one that is interactive, takes preparation and practice. Having a firm grasp of the subject matter, in this case invasive plants on a National Wildlife Refuge, and knowing what to say will go a long way in inspiring the audience.


John F. Kennedy said, "The only reason to give a speech is to change the world."

By sparking one person's interest in invasive plants or encouraging one person to volunteer at a refuge, the world can be a better place. Prepare for the presentation with this in mind.

  • Know what you are going to say and why
    This doesn't mean memorize a speech; have the main speaking points ready, but know the subject well enough to improvise. Know why people should listen and care.
  • Practice, practice, practice
    Know the slides or props and rehearse the talk ahead of time. Practice in front of a friend or family member who can give helpful feedback. If possible, practice where the presentation will take place.
  • Arrive early
    Get to know the room and arrange it to make it easy for the audience to interact with one another. If you are using a projector or other audio visual equipment, test it to make sure everything is in working order.


Audiences generally remember the beginning and end of the presentation the best. Of course, there can't be a beginning and end without a middle, so break up the bulk of the talk into mini-starts and finishes (1).

Great Beginnings

Cartoon image of presenter.

Engage the audience right from the start.

  • Start with an interactive activity to "break the ice" so participants can feel at ease with others and the presenter.
  • Begin with a question or two to make them curious about the topic and also to let them share their knowledge.
  • Share stories with which the audience can identify such as how a particular invasive plant got to the area. Help persuade the audience to care rather than telling them why they should care.
  • Have photos and/or props (like weed models, weed identification books, handouts, etc.) in the room to get the audience familiar with the topic. This also gives them something to do until the presentation begins.

Maintaining the Momentum

Cartoon image of presenter.

Keep the audience engaged so they pay attention and learn.

  • Break up the presentation at key places every 8-10 minutes with an interactive activity to review information and to get the audience interacting with one another.
  • Use activities that are appropriate for the age and experience of the audience.
  • Give quiet participants a chance to speak.
  • Keep track of the time and stay on schedule.

Wrapping it Up

Cartoon image of presenter.

Inspire the audience to action.

  • Provide time so the audience can ask questions.
  • Tell the audience that every action a person takes can make a difference.
  • End with an interactive activity or with concrete information on how they can help with the invasive plant problem. Provide handouts if possible.
  • Thank them for attending.

On Stage

When practicing and giving your presentation, follow these simple guidelines.

  • Speak slowly
    Cartoon image of presenter and audience.
    Nervousness tends to lend itself to rushing through things in order to get it over quickly. Slow down a little and let the words sink in. However don’t speak so slowly that people become anxious.
  • Speak to individuals
    Look for friendly faces with which to make eye contact. By directing the talk to individuals, you will engage listeners more deeply in the presentation. Remember that people generally want the speaker to do well and they will offer encouraging nods that may boost your confidence.
  • Speak loudly
    Know ahead of time how loudly you need to speak so that the person in the back of the room hears you talking. At the beginning, ask if the people in the back can hear ok.
  • Pause
    Take time in between topics or important points to pause and let new concepts or ideas sink in. This also allows people to ask questions and clarify what they are learning.
  • Show enthusiasm
    If the speaker doesn’t care about invasive plants, why should the listeners? An enthusiastic speaker can get an audience excited about anything.
  • Support slides
    If giving a slide show, try not to read the text on the slides verbatim. Know the main points and speak in a conversational style.
  • Don’t worry
    Don’t agonize over mistakes or apologize to the audience. Act confident and proceed right through the stumbles or words misspoken. The audience forgives you.

Audience Participation


Cartoon image of learners.
  • At the start of the presentation let the group know that you hope everyone will participate.
  • Instead of having someone speak in front of the whole group, break them into smaller groups where they may feel more comfortable talking.
  • Direct questions to the silent participants and reinforce their answers with positive responses.
  • Give participants the option to "pass" on a question. They may feel uncomfortable answering at first but might gain confidence later in the presentation. (2)

Participants Who Talk Too Much

Cartoon image of learner.
  • Encourage others to talk more instead of discouraging the big talker.
  • Present a question and ask members of the audience to provide a short answer or comment.
  • Divide the audience into small groups so that it is more conducive for everyone to participate equally.
  • Acknowledge comments and involve others: "Jennifer, that was an interesting perspective. Has anyone else had similar ideas or experiences?" (2)



  1. Bowman S. 2005. Preventing Death by Lecture. Glenbrook (NV): Bowperson Publishing Company. 96 p.
  2. Information adapted from The Thiagi Group. <http://www.thiagi.com/tips.html>. Accessed 2007 May 19.