For Every Presentation: 5 Essential Elements

For every Course.
For every Webinar.
For every Workshop.
To create a dynamic learning environment these elements are must-haves in your instruction.

You know how teachers have a lesson plan?
Well, this is your lesson plan.

Some people call it a curriculum plan or a course plan.
No matter the terms you use, this is the plan for how you are going to present your topic.

Here are the essentials.

The Five Essential Elements are the 5Es.
E does not stand for essential or element.
I made that up.
However, they are essential elements if you are aiming for quality instruction.

The 5Es were developed in the 1980s to teach biology and when employed facilitate the construction of knowledge (what you want them to know) by using a specific sequence when planning instruction.

It is based on constructivist learning theory about how people learn and rigorous research has been used to study the 5Es. It is widely used to teach science and math courses in elementary school through grade 12.  

I’ve taught science classes using the 5Es and have taught university courses on how to implement the 5Es.


So what is the 5E method?
It’s a elegant planning tool.

The 5Es are five sequenced phases of instruction and each begins with the letter E (bet you didn’t see that one coming!). They are:

  • Engage

  • Explore

  • Explain

  • Elaborate

  • Evaluate (can happen throughout)

Notice they are all verbs. (Action words!)

These are phases that you purposefully plan, sequence and do during your presentation.

It’s original purpose was for students in biology classes which are typically taught using hands-on activities.

I’ve modified the original purpose and blended in an adult education perspective then considered a variety of teaching formats; eCourses, webinars, presentations and workshop learning environments.

I use the 5Es in all of my instructional design and training projects.

I’m sharing my modified version with you so you can use the same highly regarded, well researched method of planning and presenting instruction that I use.

Here it is.

Each in the form of a question so you can act.
Remember these are verbs!


I. Engage: How are you going to ENGAGE your participants?
This is not about having ice breakers - though a wonderful way to warm things up. This is, how are you going to engage your audience about your topic? To get the thinking juices going. Warm up the right and left hemispheres. What can you say, do, or show that will entice them to think about your topic?

II. Explore: How will you get your participants to EXPLORE?
Instead of thinking that your role as presenter is to tell the audience about your topic  - think of your role as giving them opportunities to explore your topic. A hands-on activity during your workshop can be an exploration. But with an eCourse, webinar or lecture-type presentation? How are you going to get participants to mentally explore the concepts in your topic? For example, you can tell them about the different types of fear responses (flight, fight or freeze) or you can ask them to imagine themselves in a pit of spiders or snakes slowly crawling all over them. The former is passive  - the latter is active and they will be mentally exploring their own fear response. Active learning has a more lasting impact.

III. Explain: How will participants EXPLAIN what they are learning?
Asking questions is the go-to response for this one. Great. Use interesting questions! Open-ended questions. Probing questions or clarifying questions. This works great at a live event. A little creativity can make the EXPLAIN phase of the 5Es work in an eCourse or webinar.

I helped my awesome negotiation coach friend Devon create multiple-choice questions for her webinar. She asked a simple A, B, or C type multiple-choice question then allowed a few seconds for everyone to think of the correct response. Posing interesting questions and allowing participants time to think gives them an opportunity to check their own understanding. Don't fret if participants don't openly respond during a webinar - the point is giving them space to think about what they're learning.

IV. Elaborate: How will participants ELABORATE or apply your topic - in more than one way?
If you do any type of coaching - ELABORATION is what you do! You take abstract concepts and help people apply them to their lives in different ways. They take what you have taught them and elaborate it in their lives. Elaboration is how your topic can make an impact, be inspiring and helpful to your participants. Think of different ways your topic can be applied in everyday life and help your participants explore the possibilities.

V. Evaluate: How will you help participants EVALUATE their own thinking?
EVALUATE is the only phase that should be done throughout your presentation (diagram above). After Devon asked the multiple-choice questions in her webinar she described why the incorrect responses were wrong. As well, why the correct response was right, giving her audience the opportunity to evaluate their learning. Many presenters use journal entries, which can be evaluative also. If you use journals ask specific questions, for example, how has your thinking changed after the first session on how to Teach Teenagers Money Management?  This is more informative and causes the participant to think about their thinking.


The simplicity of the 5Es is:

  1. Each phase starts with an E

  2. The phases are all verbs

  3. It is something you plan in a sequence and your participants do (this goes perfectly with, what do you need to do to help your participants learn?).


Your aim is to entice them to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and then Evaluate their thinking - all about YOUR topic!


The 5Es is essential to constructing quality presentations and presenting yourself as the passionate educator I know you are.