"A simple and confident presentation is the best presentation. What matters more than what you say, is how you say it. And with minimum text, it has maximum impact."
– Karmanya Sareen
EEE Departmental Representative, 2016-17
The ability to prepare and deliver an effective presentation is a useful skill for both academic study and for the workplace. You’ll learn a lot about presentation skills throughout your course, but we’ve got some useful advice to start you off.
It is important that you check with your Department to see if there is specific guidance you should follow when giving a presentation. Some Departments may offer detailed support on written and oral presentation skills.
As with many methods of assessment at university, the key to delivering a good presentation is preparation.
Before you start working on your presentation, consider the following:
What are you trying to achieve with this presentation? Think about the key points you want your audience to take away with them – how can you make sure that you get your message across?
Who are you delivering your presentation to? How many people will you be addressing? Do you know anything about them that could help you tailor your content to them? For example, some audiences might be well versed in the technical jargon of your subject, where others may need more plain language.
Think about the venue where you will be delivering your presentation. What facilities will be available? How will the seating be arranged? A lecture hall could make the atmosphere feel very formal, whereas a seminar room might lead to a more conversational approach.
You may have been provided with guidelines you need to stick to as part of your presentation. Make sure you know how much time you have, whether there are any style constraints you need to work within, or if you need to stick to a set number of slides.
A clear structure to your presentation will provide you with a clear outline of how you will convey your information to your audience. You may need to consider:
- What are the main points you wish to make?
- What supporting information will you include to make these points?
- How will you link each section of your presentation to the next?
- How will you open your presentation?
- What points will you emphasise in your closing statements?
Feeling nervous before a presentation is natural. As with exams, there are some things you can do to calm your nerves before a presentation.
Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your presentation with friends or in front of a mirror. Knowing that you’re prepared will go a long way to calming your nerves.
A good night’s sleep before a presentation will help you to concentrate better, which in turn will alleviate tension.
Work out what is causing you the most anxiety and devise a coping strategy. Are you worried about forgetting something? Make some cue cards. Do you think you might fall over? Plan your presentation so that you don’t have to move often.
Take a few deep breaths before you start your presentation. Make a conscious effort to slow your breathing during your talk. When you reach the end of a section, pause for a moment so you can maintain a comfortable breathing pattern.
Remember your audience
Your audience is not your enemy. They are interested in what you have to say, and they want to see you do well.
Delivering a presentation
Smile. You’re not performing stand-up comedy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t smile at your audience. Smiling will also help you to feel relaxed.
- Make eye contact with your audience. Avoid simply reading from your notes. It can make your delivery sound monotonous and affect your pronunciation and fluency, which would lose marks. Only look at your notes or prompt cards when you need to.
- Pace the speed of your delivery. Speaking too fast can affect the clarity, but speaking too slowly may mean you run out of time. When delivering a presentation many people inadvertently talk faster than normal, and end up running out of breath.
Vary your tone of voice to keep your audience interested.
Use your body language to emphasise points and appear confident. Try to interact with your audience if appropriate to show you value their opinion.
Build on your performance
When your presentation is over, think about what worked and what didn’t – what could you do better next time? Did the audience seem interested? What made you feel nervous? What feedback did you receive?
Evaluate your presentation so you can improve your confidence and your overall performance.