Presenting information clearly, memorably and in a way that impacts your audience is an important skill - both here at the university and later in professional life. Many university courses require you to present information either individually or in groups and some courses are even examined through an oral presentation or discussion.
If the mere thought of presenting in front of an audience or even recording yourself presenting makes you nervous, you are not alone. Presenting is a skill that can be practiced and developed and as we become more competent we tend to become less nervous.
Like academic writing, preparing a high quality presentation is a process. When you are asked to write a text, the scope is often clearly stated in either number of words or pages required. It can be more difficult to determine the scope of a presentation, but is perhaps useful to know that average speaking speed is approximately 150 words/minute - so a 10 minute presentation is likely to contain approximately 1500 words.
Regardless of whether you choose to write a complete manuscript or simply a list of keywords, it is important to practice your presentation to get a feeling for how long it will take you to deliver your content. When preparing for an oral exam it can be a good idea to record yourself answering practice questions and possible follow up questions.
Consider the following when preparing your presentation:
Who is your target audience? What will they be expecting? How much do they already know about your topic, are you presenting new information or providing new and deeper perspectives? What impact would you like to make and what key points would you like your audience to remember?
Your goal will determine how you design and deliver your presentation. Your goal might be to inform, teach, entertain, persuade or, in the context of an oral exam, to display knowledge. Think about what you would like to achieve with your presentation. What are your most important points or main arguments? Try to summarize your presentation in one sentence.
Scope and format
The scope and format of your presentation will provide a framework for organising and structuring your presentation. Think about how much time you have available and any specific guidelines that you need to follow. Will the presentation take place in front of a live audience, online or be recorded - this might change how you can best deliver your message. Also consider how you will deal with possible questions from your audience - will you take questions at the end, during the course or the presentation or at a later point?
Begin by summarising your message as clearly and simply as possible. Use this as a basis for adding the content needed to present your key points to your target audience. Is there terminology that you will need to explain? Are there important examples you need to include to highlight your message? Is there content that you are required to include?
Based on the content you have selected, create a clear structure for your presentation - use headings and subheadings. Think about how the various parts of your presentation are connected. Is there a logical order to how the content is presented? Are there clear transitions from one content area or one key point to the next? Does your presentation begin with an introduction that will generate interest and finish with a closing statement that will leave an impact?
Depending on the format of your presentation, there are various things to consider when planning the actual delivery. If you are using a slide show, there are simple and clear guidelines which can help you design professional and informative slides. Your level of engagement and tone of voice and body language are also important. If you use a manuscript, it is important that you rehearse and make sure that your delivery is fluent and natural. Think about your body language and how you can use it when presenting in front of a live audience or online.
Tutorial in presentation technique
Students can book a 30 minute tutorial in presentation technique.