A presentation is not just a talk. It is an interactive performance; there is a real audience, looking at and listening to you, and expecting that you will interact with them. For many, this is the scariest aspect of presenting. The tips below aim to help boost your confidence.
Before the presentation:
- Prepare well. It can be tempting to think that winging it on the day will be less stressful. Do not. The scariest part about preparing a presentation is starting. You will feel better once that is done.
- Learn and understand your topic, your aim (what do you want your audience to learn about the topic?), and your structure (how will you guide your audience to your aim?). Then, memorising what you want to say will follow naturally.
- Rehearse. As you do, spot points for improvement. Include realistic pauses, both for you and your audience to take in any audio/visual aids you will use (e.g. graphs, a new slide). This way, you can time yourself more accurately and feel in control of the time you have.
- Troubleshoot in advance. Identify any additional comments on your key points, which you could make if you end up having more time than you predicted. Similarly, decide what points you could safely omit if you find yourself running out of time.
- Make prompt cards, like short lists, mind maps or pictures, to joy your memory during the presentation.
- Familiarise yourself with either classroom or the virtual set-up you will be using (e.g. Collaborate). Know in advance who to contact for technical support should you need it. If you get stressed, it might be a good idea to learn some breathing and stress-management techniques.
During the presentation:
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Be mindful of your body language. Try not to cross your arms, for example, as that could make you seem defensive. Instead, try standing in a neutral position with your shoulders down, arms relaxed and looking forward. Even if you are presenting digitally, your posture will affect your voice.
- Make eye-contact with your audience if your presentation is in-person.
- If you get lost, do not panic. Take a moment to breathe. Then, glance at your prompt cards to jog your memory and continue. No-one will notice, and, even if they do, they are unlikely to remember!
- Do not be afraid to seem in control. Greet your audience before you start. Signpost your presentation’s structure (‘we will begin by…’, ‘next we will look at…’, etc.). Signal that your presentation is over (use a good final one-liner to offer food for thought in your conclusion, thank your audience).
Most importantly, think positive, even if you do not entirely believe it. Just keep thinking “It will be alright. I will do well”.
Have a look at the Study Hub Presentations and posters page for tips on structuring presentations.