Outline for partners to make an inquiry-based presentation

If you'd like to use slides to go along with your presentation, make a copy of the Google Slide template that goes along with this outline.

Introductory Notes

Use this outline as a tool to help you structure your presentation. This outline clocks in at roughly 8 minutes, if you stick to the recommended times.

You should think of this outline more as a storyboard than a template. You could use any number of presentation styles and mediums and still have a great presentation! What’s more important is the “story arc” as well as the timings and content.

You’re free to go off script, of course! Just a couple things to keep in mind, given your audience:

Share Your Story

If you have a personal story that relates to your topic (and is appropriate for teen audiences), share it. Personal stories are highly engaging, and they give the students a chance to get to know you better

Some notes on sharing your story: there are some topics that are controversial or inappropriate for a classroom. While we acknowledge your personal experiences are important to who you are, please use discretion when sharing them and err on the side of caution.

Use an Inquiry-based Approach

When you can, introduce your content with a problem situation or a question. Inquiry elicits responses. Note, this isn't you asking a question and expecting an answer. It's establishing something for your and the students to think about, together. It's about sparking curiosity.

Some notes on appropriate content: there are some topics that are controversial or inappropriate for a classroom. While we acknowledge your personal beliefs are entirely legitimate, please remember that you are there to make a connection, not a point. Our goal (which is often aligned to yours!) is to get students engaged in what they’re learning and excited about what you do. To do that, inspire curiosity and show relevance. The fastest way to shut someone down, however, is to proselytize.

Some notes on taking questions: believe it or not, teenager brains are highly in-tune with social cues--they can read you. And they’re wiley, so they may try to “bait” you into an embarrassing or inappropriate response. Recognize that they’re doing it all in good fun, but keep your wits about you! If there’s a question you don’t think you should answer, just smile and say so, and move on.

Chunk your content

No one, teen or otherwise, wants to listen to a presenter speak for 60 minutes straight. Break up your story into “chapters” that all last within the appropriate attention span. Which is a good segue to…

Attention spans are very, very short

Some studies put the teenage attention span at 5 minutes. But a good rule of thumb is 1 minute per grade level. So most presentations should be 7-12 minutes. (TED Talks caps it at 18 minutes. And that’s for adults who paid to be there!)

Change up what students do with every chunk

Spend one chunk presenting, another answering questions, another facilitating a miniature case study or another activity, and so on. Allow the students to engage with your content in multiple ways, and make sure what they’re doing changes with every chunk.


1. Introduce yourself (30 seconds)

Greet the audience and introduce your self. Don't be afraid of personality!

2. Introduce your organization (30 seconds)

Tell us what you do. The goal is to make it clear how your organization is connected to the topic you’re covering.

3. Lay out the goals (30 seconds)

Often, the initial request that you responded to laid out a few goals for the presentation. Here is where to include them, so students understand what they should be looking for.

If not, however, this is a good opportunity to define the goals with the students.

4. Lead with the punchline: a question or problem (30 seconds)

Introduce the focus of the big idea of the presentation. What is the key problem or question to resolve? Why does it matter? Spend time raising the stakes.

Don’t worry if you feel like you need to provide more context first. Just focus on concepts, and avoid jargon. Let students listen to you, the expert intimate with this mysterious topic. We’ll develop the background next.

(Don’t seek answers just yet: you need to provide some helpful information before you can get any good answers.)

5. Share relevant background info (2 minutes)

Include some engaging content that should help set the stage for your problem, so that your audience feels informed when you ask something of them later. Think of this section as answering “how we got to this question in the first place.” This might be what you or your organization has done in the past. It might be important nuggets on the industry. It might be a “how it works” for an important process.

Then include some engaging content that should help your audience form opinions and predictions related to your question or problem. If you have an answer in mind from your question, these are your “hints.” If not, these are the anchors for the discussion. Pick the “smoking guns” that should connect the dots for students.

Spend no more than 60-90 seconds laying out the details and then spend another 1 to 2 minutes fielding questions. Ask if they understand the relevant information you’ve presented. Let them make predictions or suggest solutions. You’re solving this problem together.

If you have them, visuals are great.

6. Return to the punchline with “the answer” (2 minutes)

Focus concisely on the big idea again, but this time with the answer. Unexpected answers are best!

Show, don’t tell, the answer. Start with the “what.” Then illuminate the "how." Then illuminate the "why."

  • the “what” (attributes of the solution, what it does, the details it focuses on)

  • the “how” (the underlying process of how the solution actually works)

  • the “why” (the reason this solution works, its specific benefits, its tradeoffs)

7. Make the class connection (1 minute)

Describe how your topic fits in with the class’s current academic focus. It should connect to either the what, how, or why.

8. Summarize (30 seconds)

Mention the second most important thing you want students to take away. Then mention the third most important thing you want students to take away. Then mention the first most important thing you want students to take away

Ideally, your summary incorporates how your topic connects to the classroom content.

9. Thank them for their attention and take questions!

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