Presenting can be a daunting task. Even with your parents’ well-intended advice of ‘just imagine the crowd in their underwear’, the nerves don’t seem to subside.
So, what can you do to make sure you’re as prepared and ready for your next oral presentation as possible? Let us tell you!
Begin by unpacking the assignment question. This will help you identify the important issues, concepts, examples and references. You also want to make sure you refer to the marking criteria and assessment description, to ensure your presentation reflects this.
Now consider aspects such as audience (who will be there, how many people, what style of presentation would suit the audience?); venue location, layout and facilities; allocated presentation time; and whether there will be questions during or after the presentation.
Now, it’s time to structure your presentation! Presentations follow a similar structural logic to academic writing:
- Introduction: Introduce the audience to the general topic, your argument or ‘main message’, and the key points of your presentation.
- Body: These are your key points, arranged in a logical order. Keep explanations and examples brief and relevant. Too much detail is not useful in a presentation.
- Conclusion: Remind the audience of your ‘main message’ and restate your key points.
Don’t forget your visual aids, though! Selecting and using effective visual aids helps the audience engage with ideas. Think about:
- What is required. Check the assessment criteria, or talk to your tutor or lecturer.
- What is available. Will you use software such as PowerPoint, create handouts, or posters?
- What is most useful. Will the audience benefit from handouts, activities or discussion?
Once your presentation is prepared, it’s time to practice it! Try practicing in front of friends, other students, your dog or cat – or even the mirror! This will help you to remember the content and structure of your presentation and to prepare for audience participation and activities.
Time yourself during your practices, to ensure your presentation runs within the allocated time limit.
Use your visual aids to help you remember your key points to discuss. You may like to write your key points on small palm cards; these are useful reminders and do not distract the audience as much as sheets of paper.
Most importantly though, the more you practice the lower your stress levels should be on the day!
It’s go time! A few handy tips to remember during your presentation are:
- Focus on the purpose of the task – keep your focus through the use of effective visual aids, and use palm cards with key points.
- Try to engage the audience through eye contact, hand gestures and by explaining and referring to visual aids.
- Be prepared for audience participation, interaction and engagement. Have questions (and potential answers to audience queries) ready, and organise and rehearse any activities beforehand.
Ten percent of the population are genuinely terrified of speaking to a group, according to Forbes.
But a slightly more surprising statistic is that ten percent of the population love public speaking. Who wouldn’t want to be one of those people?
That leaves most of us in the middle of the spectrum. We aren’t terrified as such, but suffice to say public speaking gives us butterflies, sweaty palms and maybe even a sleepless night before the big presentation.
There are many strategies you can employ to help ease your nerves. But nothing beats planning, preparation and practice – lots and lots of practice.
The first thing you’ll need to need to do is analyse the assignment question. Like any assignment task, it’s important that you understand what you are being asked to do by gathering all the relevant details, deciphering the task and breaking it down into mini questions that you can answer.
Make sure you understand what you need to include in your presentation. For example, do you need to demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft PowerPoint? What are the key features of the program that you need to demonstrate proficiency in?
And what about audience participation? Are you required to develop an interactive activity for your audience? All of this should be detailed in the course profile and/or marking criteria. If in doubt, ask your lecturer!
Presentations follow a similar structure to written assignments. So just like an essay, a case study or a literature review, you will need to prepare an introduction, body and conclusion. Head to the Study Smart module on Writing your assignment to find out what each of these entail.
And remember, it’s important to reference any information you use at university. So be sure to include a reference list in a PowerPoint slide or print handout so your audience can source the information for themselves (and your lecturer can see that you did your research!). Head to the Study Smart Referencing module to find out the essentials of referencing.
Practicing your presentation is extremely important. Try practicing in front of friends, other students, your dog or cat – or even the mirror! This will help you to remember the content and structure of your presentation, and to prepare for audience participation and activities.
Palm cards with a list your key points (not your entire speech), can also aid your memory.