Speaker Guidance


Present Like a Pro


Converting to Online Teaching
A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions


By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA


Eight years ago, when we launched our successful annual Project Management Symposium, we rapidly learned that while many speakers had very good content, they were not necessarily up to speed in preparing their visual support, which is generally PowerPoint, so, we began to offer some guidance. Over the past several years, the guidance has been refined and I believe is now applicable for any presentation, virtual or in person. This article is a modified version of that guidance.

Preparing Your Presentation

This section may be adjusted for the specific time allocation of your event, but the timing is what we are currently using. Each individual speaker session is scheduled for 45 minutes.  It breaks down to a 5-minute introduction, 30-minute presentation and 10 minutes for Q&A.  Your 30-minute presentation is your opportunity to showcase your ideas to your peers.  Model your 30 minutes like a TED Talk.  TED talks are generally 18 minutes, not 30, but if you use the techniques used to develop a TED Talk, it will keep your presentation focused and your audience more engaged.  One way to break things up in your presentation is to use polling or show a short video.

Develop an Idea.

Think about what you want the audience to take away from your presentation. You should not have more than 3 big ideas, but one is certainly enough. A good idea takes evidence or observations and should lead to a conclusion.

Share What You Know.

You do not need to be the world’s foremost expert, but you do need to be an expert on your topic. The audience relies on you to give accurate information – be sure to check and verify your facts! If you are presenting research, make sure your idea is backed by the facts. Give relevant examples, concisely presented. Identify opinion or developing ideas as such.

Prepare, Outline and Script

There is no single theory that offers the best structure for your talk, but we recommend that you follow the guidance for TED Talks. This is the structure that they have found to work particularly well:

  • “Start by making your audience care, using a relatable example or an intriguing idea.
  • Explain your idea clearly and with conviction.
  • Make the persuasive case about how, and why your idea should be implemented.
  • End by addressing how your idea could affect your audience if they accept it.”

The primary goal of your talk is to communicate an idea effectively, so I recommend that you follow this structure:


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Editor’s note: This series of articles by the Director of the University of Maryland’s Project Management Center for Excellence provides information and advice for converting from traditional in-person classes to online teaching, based on their experience before and during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

How to cite this paper: Cable, J. H. (2021). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions – Speaker Guidance: Present Like a Pro, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue V, May. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/pmwj105-May2021-Cable-converting-to-teaching-online-speaker-guidance2.pdf

About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/




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