Delivering a presentation
Once you have prepared your presentation you will need to effectively communicate this to your audience. This page includes some advice on dealing with nerves, tips from students at Sussex and a checklist for delivering a good presentation.
√ Practise delivering your presentation.
√ Check your visuals can be seen from the back of the room
√ Position yourself where all of the audience can see you easily and you can see them.
√ Tell the audience what you're going to do, do it, and tell them what you've done. Show an outline of the presentation at the start.
√ KISS: Keep It Short and Simple. Short words. Short phrases. Clear explanations.
√ Address the whole audience, not just one group or the tutor.
√ Speak slowly - the larger the audience, the more slowly you should speak.
√ Speak clearly - loud enough for all to hear.
√ Pause from time to time - for natural breaks and to keep the audience attentive.
√ Show your enthusiasm! It can help to cover up nervousness.
√ Use humour where possible (visual and verbal), so long as it is relevant.
√ Place your note or cards slides face down in a neat pile as you finish using each one.
√ Think on your feet and adapt to audience cues, e.g. responding to questions.
- Read your presentation.
- Read your visuals/handout as your presentation. It may be necessary to read out your examples if some of the audience has trouble seeing them, but that's all.
- Sit. It restricts your ability to project your voice.
- Walk about while talking. Find an anchor to speak from-e.g. a podium or a chair to stand against.
- Walk in front of the screen/blackboard while it's being used.
- Turn your back to the audience (e.g., when pointing at visuals).
- Gaze out the window or over the audience's head.
- Play with coins, glasses, pens, notes, clothes or body (fingers, hair), while talking.
- Get diverted into a discussion with a single member of the audience - during or after the presentation.
- Present detailed diagrams, tables or photocopied pages on screen.
Third-year English Literature
I think the important thing to remember with presentations is that everyone gets nervous about them and it's sometimes easy to become nervous about the fact that you're going to be nervous. And then it's just a vicious cycle of nervousness. I think it doesn't matter if you're nervous as long as you have prepared well and you get across your points, and it's interesting and you've done your best.
That's all that matters, and I think that realisation for me helped me to just relax more during presentations and just accept that everyone gets a little bit shaky and sweaty palms. But it just happens and no-one's judging you for it - the important thing is that you just get your points across and then it's fine.
There are lots of opportunities for giving presentations during seminars. I personally really enjoy it. It's really good for preparing you for the world of work. As for preparing for presentations, I'd say to not leave it to the last minute. Give it some thought beforehand.
A lot of the time you're working with 2 or 3 other people, sometimes you are working alone, but it is good to meet up a week in advance or 2 weeks in advance to discuss how it is going to take place.
You should write some bullet point notes and practise beforehand and feel confident about what you're saying. Make sure you understand what you are saying and then you should be fine.
Anna, Third-year Media Student
Second-year Electrical and Electronic Engineering
On my course we have to do presentations. I learn a lot from it. You get to see your confidence, your level of confidence you've got and you tend to like learn from it. From the feedback you get. The main advice I'd give to students that are doing a presentation would be to be confident, be yourself and just enjoy it. Even if you're not quite confident with talking about that topic, let them ask you questions, answer the questions and keep eye contact.
Dealing with nerves
Practising your presentation will help you to feel less nervous. Make sure you practise with any visuals you'll be using. If you can, practise with an audience.
Many people find that once their presentation is underway their nerves disappear. Don't worry about pauses. Audiences like the occasional pause, so do not get too flustered if you occasionally need a few seconds to think, or if you lose your train of thought. Stay calm and take your time.
Anticipate questions. Think about the questions your audience is likely to ask and how you will respond.
Don't worry if you can't answer a question. Say that you need a little time to think and that you will get back to them later. Alternatively, say you do not know and ask the audience if anyone else can answer it.
Prepare a few discussion points. Try to make sure that these discussion points do not require too much prior knowledge. Avoid making them so vague that people aren't sure what to talk about, or so specific that they will not generate discussion.