JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Planning and Conducting a Financial Aid Presentation

Conducting a Financial Aid Workshop is a great way to present important financial aid information to students and parents.  Properly planned and executed, it can save counselors hours of time in disseminating information.  Because of special circumstances or needs, individual sessions may still be necessary and desirable for some families.  However, by providing general information in written form and through group presentations, more time will be available for those families who require special attention. 

This section provides guidance on planning for a financial aid presentation, helpful hints for public speaking and suggested materials to share with students and families.

Here are some tips to help you plan your event.

Eight Steps from Start to Finish

1. Setting the date

These factors should be considered when selecting a date.

  • DO pick a date far enough in advance of the priority filing dates announced by the postsecondary institutions to which your students typically apply.  Check the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), institutional application instructions or catalogues to determine these dates and then count back four to six weeks to allow time for completion and processing of the forms.  Also, when setting a date, keep in mind the timeframe when families will receive tax information (e.g., W-2 forms, 1099s, etc.)
  • DO pick a date that complements other school-related activities for parents.  For example, you might make the Financial Aid Information Night the program for a monthly PTA meeting.  If not, be sure to pick a date that does not compete with a PTA meeting or other school or community events appealing to college-bound students and their parents.
  • DO be sensitive to religious observances affecting the families that need financial aid information.
  • DON’T pick a date too close to major holidays.  Family scheduling conflicts will affect your attendance.
  • DON’T pick a date prior to the time that the FAFSA form is available.  FAFSAs are normally distributed to secondary schools in October, although changes to the forms or procedures for processing the forms may cause delays in some years.   One of the main presentation items is the proper completion of these forms; it would be difficult to conduct a presentation without referring to an actual FAFSA. Check with ISAC or a local financial aid administrator to determine the probable distribution date in any given year.
  • DON’T try to compete with entertainment or athletic events.
  • DON’T ignore the possibility of inclement weather; select and advertise an alternate date just in case.

2. Setting a time

Host financial aid presentations at a time convenient to both students and parents.  Even more than selecting a major or a college, financial aid is a topic that concerns most parents.  Scheduling such a presentation on a weekday during traditional working hours may deprive you of a majority of your potential participants.

3. Selecting a facility

Based upon anticipated attendance, identify a facility that will comfortably accommodate the group.  Since many parents tend to take extensive notes during such a presentation, tables or at least chairs with writing arms, are desirable.

Select a room that allows appropriate control over lighting to accommodate visual aids such as overhead transparencies, slides, videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc.  When selecting visual aids, remember that your audience will probably need to take notes.

A microphone should be available if the size of the room or the voice of the presenter requires it.  A laptop, projector, screen, and a chalkboard at the front of the room are desirable for impromptu notes and calculations.

The facility selected should be readily accessible to the disabled and in close proximity to available parking areas.  Plan to provide directional signs to the proper room.  Some facilities require special notification or arrangements for meetings held during non-working hours.  To avoid the embarrassing absence of heat, air conditioning, lighting, and so on, be sure that the proper people are advised of your meeting.

4. Advertising the event

Once the date, time, and facility have been determined, you are ready to advertise the Financial Aid Workshop.  Try to begin promotion two to four weeks in advance, which is early enough to get on parents' calendars, yet late enough that they don’t forget about it in the interim.  Beyond the obvious announcements in homerooms, study halls, and flyers sent home to parents, consider the possibility of using public service announcements on local television and radio, news or calendar items in local newspapers, items in PTA or school newsletters, posters in shopping areas, public address announcements at sporting events, and other school and community activities.

5. An outside “expert”

For the night of the presentation, you might want to bring in an outside “expert” such as an ISAC representative or a local financial aid administrator to present the information.  The representative or administrator can inform the audience about state and federal financial aid programs.  Such outside presenters will add a positive touch to the workshop. If you are interested in hosting a financial aid workshop, and/or would like to request that an ISAC representative be present at your event, complete the Request for ISAC Outreach Activities Form.  

6. Making a list, checking it twice

The rest of the planning process consists of following up to make sure that the arrangements described above are implemented as requested.  Confirm everything about a week before your workshop, and then again the preceding day. Periodic reminders are more pleasant to handle than a last minute frantic phone call 10 minutes after the auditorium is to have been opened, with 50 participants standing in the hallway.

7. Delivering the information 

If thorough planning has been done, the workshop should go smoothly.  Arrive well in advance of the announced starting time to make sure doors are unlocked, utilities are available, and audio-visual equipment is in working order.  Put out directional signs as necessary to help people find their way.  Have materials organized before the first of the audience arrives.

Because of the potential length of the presentation, make every effort to start at the scheduled time.  If anyone is to miss a portion of the session, it should be those that arrive late, not those who arrived on time but had to leave before you were finished.

Leave ample time for questions, either during or after the formal presentation.  Ask your presenter to repeat attendee questions for all of your audience to hear.  The presenter(s) should anticipate that some families will prefer to ask personal questions after the session.

8. The finishing touches

If outside presenters have assisted with the workshop, thank them publicly during the presentation and then again in writing shortly thereafter.  In most cases, they will have been donating their time and perhaps some expenses, so a sincere “thank you” is the only encouragement they will receive to assist you in the future.

If the room and/or building need to be secured after everyone has left, be sure you have made arrangements with the individuals responsible for those tasks.

10 Easy Public Presentation Steps

To help take the fear out of public speaking, follow these suggested steps.

  1. Know your subject thoroughly.  This is a must!
  2. Organize the subject matter by topics and subtopics in a logical progression.  Use an outline rather than written, lengthy notes.  An outline will help you stay on the topic while still maintaining eye contact with the audience.
  3. Plan ahead for the creation or revision of a PowerPoint presentation, overheads, handouts, etc., to ensure they will be ready in advance of your presentation date. Prepare an extra 25-30 handouts over the anticipated audience number.
  4. Advertise the event including date, time, place, and subject (e.g., posters, flyers, newspaper or public announcements).
  5. Inspect the room well in advance of the presentation to determine if a microphone, extension cord, podium, table, projector, etc. will need to be used or requested.  Contact the person in charge of the room set-up with a list of your needs and the date of the presentation.  Become familiar with the operation of equipment (e.g., projector or computer) or have someone else run it.  Test any visuals for readability, especially in the back and side sections of the room.  It is also important to test the equipment (e.g., computer, overhead projector) to make sure it is working properly when using the PowerPoint presentation.
  6. Rehearse what you will say out loud in front of someone to feel comfortable with the subject matter, flow of the information, and the timing/length of your presentation.
  7. Enunciate — the wealth of knowledge benefits no one if people cannot understand you.
  8. Don't rush through the material.  Slow your presentation to a comprehensible pace. Observe your audience to see if they are in tune with your presentation.
  9. Breathe — take a deep breath before beginning your presentation.  It really helps!
  10. Plan to include time for questions and answers.  Don’t forget to repeat the questions so that everyone in your audience can hear them.  Discuss those questions that are common to most of the audience.  Be sure to listen to the entire question carefully and provide succinct, accurate answers. If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess or it may cause you to lose credibility with your audience.  Instead, offer a source to contact or follow-up with that person.  Handle an isolated question pertaining only to a few by offering to answer it privately at the end of the session or provide a telephone number for call-in questions.  If no one has a question, review details not already covered that might be appropriate for the group to hear. 

By following these 10 easy steps, you will have a successful presentation!