How To Present Well: Think Less. Type More.

I started something in GoogleDocs and didn’t stop for five minutes. Put down your thoughts. Group thoughts into sentences, sentences into paragraphs. Schedule paragraphs so they don’t stray too far from the through-line.

For example, I wanted to discuss the cliché of good teachers assigning gross, indecipherable handouts to students and then expecting neat, decipherable work. That one’s several degrees off the trail, though, so I made sure to refresh our through-line immediately before and after it. It’s a dance. Leaving, returning. Expanding, retracting. You’re flirting with the through-line the whole way through.

This whole step would go without saying except so often it’s our tendency to build our presentations from the PowerPoint Keynote slides up. But Keynote has an immoral tendency to linearize complicated arguments, to break good thought into retarded bullet points. Keynote is still a couple days out.

Here is my brain dump, everything that struck me as interesting or worth sharing, listed in bullet points that do not proceed orderly from one to the next:

  • Bring in Wire clips / Bueller Bueller / Chalk?
  • Start from small to big.
  • comic sans
  • list 5 pejoratives
  • seek out cliche and destroy it
  • fake or legit
  • we’re not talking about canceling class or throwing a party
  • comic sans
  • worksheets poorly designed
  • teachers boring, obsessed w/ problem sets
  • interested only in math
  • assessments are a thing to dread
  • cliché case files
  • totally incomprehensible test (what is your score? what should my reaction be here? 2 triangle 2 triangle is an operation 5Q fast test)
  • this is difficult
  • branding — what they think of after lunch when they think of your class
  • first impressions
  • smile at door
  • syllabus at the start of the year
  • sometimes, no matter what you do, your brand sucks. attendance sux. but you’re doing great things for when they come around. math in future years.
  • This girl has hated math for years. It isn’t your fault but you must do something about it.

Then I threw my through-line at the list, reshuffled some items, and reworded others so that I never strayed more than a couple steps off the path the whole way through. Audiences don’t enjoy confusion, I’ve concluded. Feel free to write that down.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Hmmm – love your work, but I think this pile needs some tidying up before it’s ready for other mortals….and your point is?

    Repeat after me: Audiences do not enjoy confusion…


  2. I’m curious to know how far you would go with your “branding.” In advertising, companies carefully design fonts, logos, symbols, and slogans to sell their products. Everything they release to the public supports and emphasizes the brand. So how meticulously and consistently designed is your brand? I’ve noticed several preferred graphic features, like color gradients and what-not. Do you have any slogans? And the real question is, could you find a way to subtly plant your advertising around the school as a constant reminder of your brand? What if student council posters used your font or dance decorations were a subliminal bombardment of brand Meyer? The diabolical possibilities are endless. What do you think?

  3. Ken, this list exemplifies the verbal vomit, the logorrhea, that’s gotta precede any good presentation. There is very little focus here.

    In terms of actually presenting the content of my presentation to the readers of this blog, I’m being intentionally coy. Sorry. I’m keeping kind of a precise schedule here.