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Student Learning Success Guides!

PRESENTATIONS are challenging because they combine in-depth knowledge of your topic, public speaking, and, potentially, visuals or activities designed to engage your listeners. All three elements must work together to have a strong presentation.

Two students presenting in front of a whiteboard to a classTIPS

Dress in professional clothing that you are comfortable moving around in: no new shoes or restrictive ties!

Have notes with you, but try to only look at them if you are truly blanking on what to say next.

Try to spend most of the presentation looking at your audience.

Ask questions. Wait and give your audience a chance to answer, but be ready to fill a silence.

Slow down! Most people speak too fast during presentations, so try to take what feels like a natural pace and then go even a little slower than that.

SELF-REFLECTION

Think back to the last presentation you gave. What worked? What didn't?

What parts of your presentation could be improved and clarified with an image or info-graphic?

Which presentation skill are you currently working on improving?

How do you prepare for a presentation?

If your audience only remembers one key idea, what do you want it to be?

The Ingredients of a Presentation

Presentations are challenging because trying to convey information while keeping the audience's attention tests many different abilities. To give a great presentation, make it:

  • Engaging
  • Unexpected
  • Credible
  • Clear

Your audience wants you to capture both their intellect and their emotions. They deserve your respect, so avoid clichés, stereotyped examples, and bad jokes.

Preparing Your Content

As soon as your begin your research, try thinking of ways you can hook your audience and have them engage with your presentation:

  • Begin with a story or surprising fact. What interests you about your topic? What surprised you while you were researching it?
  • Connect with your audience by sparking curiosity or an emotional response. How can you show that your topic is relevant to your audience? What impact does your topic have on their lives?

After engaging your audience, you have to convince them that you are a credible source of knowledge about your topic:

  • Keep your message clear and straightforward.
  • Present your ideas in organized, logical steps.
  • Verify your facts and cite your sources.

In-depth knowledge and a true interest in your topic will be more memorable than a perfectly planned presentation that is memorized or read word-for-word. Write a script but don't use it.

Designing Effective Visuals

While it can be tempting to let your slides do your work for you, your audience (and your instructor) mostly wants to hear you speak. Think of your visuals as an added flourish that gets your audience's attention or helps them understand your content so that you make your own words the backbone of your presentation.

  • Use slides as an outline for your presentation to help your audience contextualize what you are saying.
  • Don't overload slides with information, flip through them too fast, or read off an entire slide. If you find yourself doing these things, try redesigning your slides.
  • Use graphics and images that clearly support what you say in your presentation. Don’t get caught out by a poorly chosen graphic.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint or Prezi, be sure to use only the images and data that are critical for understanding.
  • Make sure your examples and metaphors are interesting but easy to comprehend.
  • Support your points with data as needed, but don't leave your audience wondering what all the numbers you just threw at them mean.

Giving Your Presentation

Practice, practice practice:

  • Practice on your own so that you can get used to putting everything you want to say into words.
  • Practice with a script so that you can formulate an 'ideal' form of your presentation.
  • Practice without a script--a freeform approach will give you new ideas and force you to think on your feet.
  • Practice while timing yourself so that you can get used to hitting the assigned length.
  • Practice in front of friends, family or whoever will listen to you. Different contexts will bring out new errors so that you can fix them before the in-class presentation. Tell them to ask as many questions as possible so that you can develop holistic knowledge of your topic.
  • Practice in the room you will be giving the presentation so that you can get used to the space.
  • Practice using the technology you'll need. Practice giving the presentation without any visuals or videos so that you're prepared if they don't work.

On the day of the presentation, pre-load videos and make sure any necessary audio is working. Choose one aspect of public speaking you would like to do better than last time and use the presentation as an opportunity to work on that.