Can you stand up with confidence, knowing your presentation will capture your audience and tick all the boxes? Now you can!
These are the main steps when preparing a presentation:
What kind of presentation do you need to give?
What sort of speaker are you?
Who is your audience?
Task: What kind of presentation do you need to give?
Researching material for a presentation is similar to researching for an assignment. Visit the library in person or online to research your topic.
Skim readings to pinpoint relevant sections for your presentation. Consider a variety of materials to incorporate:
Write notes and create a concept map of how ideas tie together. Use the concept map to consider the relationships between each piece of information.
Audience: Who is your audience?
Consider the audience:
How much do they already know?
How much is too much information?
Speaker: What sort of speaker are you?
How much do you already know about the topic?
Use information and resources you feel comfortable with
Include small facts that you find fascinating – The audience will be more receptive if they see you enjoying yourself
What is your speaking style?
Enjoys argument and debate.
Asks the audience questions.
Enjoys making jokes.
Allows time to interact with the audience.
Enjoys inspiring people.
Highlights the impact of ideas in broader domains.
Uses different modalities, e.g. sound, sight, touch to engage the audience.
Once you have a collection of notes, ideas, objects, multi-media content etc, it is time to write the presentation itself.
Lectern or table
White board and pens
Video? CDs? DVD's?
Summary notes (Pamphlets/posters? Given out how/when?)
If you are using any technology for your presentation, test it well before the presentation, on the actual equipment you will be using.
Writing a presentation means putting together a logical sequence of ideas to satisfy the task.
Go to the following presentation structure’s section to learn about how to write the presentation.
Practising a presentation is as important as editing an essay:
Rehearse two or three times - at least once with full equipment.
Become so familiar with the material that key words on a page or cue cards will trigger a key point for you, and you can talk while maintaining eye contact.
Rehearse in front of a practice audience and get them to critique it for you.
Record an MP3/video of yourself talking and learn how to speak more clearly
Check non-verbal communication. Be mindful of physical habits like touching hair or pacing up and down
Become familiar with the technology you need to use
The structure of a presentation is much the same as that for an essay:
You start by introducing the topic overall, then each aspect of the topic is presented in the body of your speech and, finally, you finish by summing up and restating the topic in your conclusion.
This structure is important for your audience to be able to follow what you are presenting. You have to introduce the general topic in order to set the context for the points you want to put forward in the body of your speech. You also need to restate the general topic at the end so that your audience hears the most important points last and are more likely to remember them.
Introducing the presentation
- Grab their attention
A good presentation often begins with something that will grab the attention of the audience. This may be something funny like a joke or cartoon, it may be a story or it may be an interesting quote. Often, saying something controversial like “we should ban all cars in Brisbane and make everyone use bicycles” can make people sit up and listen.
- State your purpose
The first thing you should talk about once you have their attention is to outline the main point (or thesis) of your presentation. People are more likely to remember things they see or hear at the beginning or the end of a presentation. Therefore, the main point you want them to remember should be made first. Likewise, this main point should also be the last thing you mention in your conclusion.
- Tell them where they are going
People are able to follow a presentation if they already have a ‘road map’ in their heads of the points that will be covered in the body of the speech. This overview enables them to fit the details of your presentation into an overall context and they are more likely to understand your arguments as you present them. Therefore, it is good to give your audience an outline of your speech. For example: ‘I will concentrate on the following points: First of all…Then…This will lead to… And finally…’
The structure of a presentation is much the same as that for an essay – introduction, body and conclusion.
The body of the presentation
- Structure each point
The body of a presentation should clarify your message and develop your arguments. Each point should be structured like a little mini presentation where you state the point first and then explain and expand on it. You need to back your points with evidence and often real life examples are useful to clarify. You should finish with a concluding sentence that restates the point again.
- Order your points
Order your points logically so that they make sense and build a sequence or ‘story’ for your audience. Organise your material according to some ‘organising principle’. This may be organising facts in chronological order, by theme, or in the order of importance.
When presenting an argument, some people recommend that your strongest points should go at the beginning and end and leave your weaker points to the middle of the presentation. This way, people are more likely to hear and remember your stronger points and will be more convinced by the argument you put forward.
- Link your points
Try to link each of the points you are making so that your presentation moves smoothly from one point to the next. This can be done by using ‘transitional words’ like:
- on the other hand
Also, sequencing your points by using words like ‘firstly … secondly … finally’ signals to your audience that you are starting another point and where they are up to in the presentation.
- Sum up your points
It is important in your conclusion to leave your audience with a clear summary of everything you have covered. Restate each point and explain its connection to the other points made and to the main point of your presentation. This should leave your audience with a clear overview of what you have been saying. Finally, you need to leave them with a strong restatement of your main thesis so that it is the last thing they hear and therefore is the point they are most likely to remember.
- Finish strongly
There is a risk that you can lose your audience towards the end of a presentation if you do not know how to finish strongly. Many people concentrate of preparing a snappy beginning to their presentation but then don’t know how to finish. They either just stop leaving their audience confused or keep repeating themselves leaving their audience impatient.
Prepare a strong statement to finish with before you get up to speak. It may be a quote or a joke or even just restating your main point in a different way. This way you will not run the risk of dithering at the end and you will leave your audience satisfied with a strong conclusion.
According to some surveys, the fear of speaking in public is one of the most common fear among people. (The fear of dying comes out lower!)
Almost everyone feels nervous when giving a presentation or speaking in public so if you feel nervous, it is perfectly natural and understandable.
"The trick is to be well prepared, then smile and
get in and do it."
Tips to deal with anxiety
Make sure you have well prepared your presentation and your notes and your visual aids are all in order. Ensure that you know the room and the equipment so that you are confident about how everything works.
The secret to being able to perform even when you are nervous is to practise, practise, practise, practise. Present your speech to your friends and family, for your cat, in front of the mirror. The more you practise, the more you are able to do your presentation well even if you are feeling nervous.
Breathe slowly in and out about 6 times before you stand up to give your presentation. Do it as slowly as you can. This helps to slow down your heart rate and increase the amount of oxygen to your brain and makes you calmer. Nerves make us talk more quickly. Don’t be afraid to pause, slow down and breathe.
When you first stand up - Smile! Your audience will react warmly to you if you smile and at least look relaxed.
Giving an oral presentation is a performance—you have to be like an actor. Don’t ever tell your audience that you are nervous or apologise for your presentation. If you act the part of someone enjoying themselves and feeling confident, you will not only communicate these positive feelings to the audience, you will feel much better, too.
If you think your hands might shake use cards instead of paper for your notes. A4 sheets held between two shaking hands will draw your own and everyone else's attention to the fact that you are nervous and will distract from the content of your talk.
A good technique is in the weeks/days leading up to your presentation, do some positive visualisation. Sitting quietly or lying in bed, imagine yourself standing in front of the group, feeling very calm and relaxed, speaking in a loud, assured voice. Run this through your head over and over and your mind will tend to remember and repeat it when you do the actual presentation.
Most people deal with nerves before a presentation, even professional speakers and performers. The trick is to be well prepared and rehearsed, smile and get in and do it.
The use of notes can often cause problems for speakers. They are necessary to prompt you if you forget what you are saying but they can be a distraction for the audience. If they are too obvious, the audience will focus more on the notes than on the speaker.
There are various ways to use notes each with their advantages and disadvantages. Think about the options that would suit you best.
Relying on memory
This is not a good idea unless you are a very experienced speaker and you know your material very well. Nervousness often takes over when speaking in public and it is easy to forget what you are saying part way through your presentation.
This is often a good method to use but only if you know your presentation well enough just to have a few cards with a few notes on each card. The cards should fit into the palm of your hand. Hold your hand at about shoulder height, this will enable you to flick your eyes down to read the next key word on your card.
Some people make the mistake of having too many cards which means they are constantly shuffling them as they speak. Also they tend to hold their cards at waist height which means they have to keep looking down to see their notes. Constantly bobbing their heads becomes a distraction. Another mistake is to write their whole speech on the cards often in very small writing. They become so focused on reading their cards that they lose all eye contact and therefore all connection with their audience.
This method has all the notes written on one sheet of paper in large print. This paper is then held about shoulder height and your eyes can flick to the next point as you are speaking. While this has the disadvantage of making it obvious to your audience that you are using notes, it means that you do not have to shuffle cards which can also be distracting.
Read from a script
This method is not generally recommended. Reading tends to flatten the tone of the voice and decrease the amount of eye contact. However, for someone who is extremely nervous, this may be a reasonable strategy.
Points to remember
No matter what method of using notes you decide on there are some key points to remember.
Write your notes in large print so that you can see them easily
Just write the key points, don’t write out the whole speech
Practise, practise, practise so that your notes are just a prompt in your presentation and not a crutch. No one else will know what you were going to say so if it doesn’t happen in exactly the order you planned – DON’T PANIC! Just keep going and no one will know the difference
Visual aids are very effective in presentations because sight is the most powerful communication channel. We get more information and more complex information through our eyes than through any of our other senses. Visual aids help to focus the audience and provide them with much more information than just through speaking to them.
Preparing effective visual aids
Many people use PowerPoint slides as the main visual aid in their presentations, but other aids could be posters, whiteboards or models. Handouts can be used for detailed information. There are some general guidelines for effective PowerPoint presentations which also apply to other forms of visual aids.
Keep the writing to a minimum
Keep slides uncluttered with plenty of space between any words or images:
Write in note form rather than whole sentences
Write your points large in a minimum of 20 point font so they are easy to see
Don’t have more than 5 – 6 points on any one slide
If possible, use pictures to illustrate your point rather than words that repeat what you say
Minimise the number of slides you use. A reasonable guideline is one slide for every two minutes of presentation
Use design wisely:
Develop a colour theme or use one that is built into the program. Too many different colours become distracting. Two colours that either accent or contrast one main colour tend to give variety without becoming overwhelming. Dark colours usually can be read more easily
Also, generally use the same font throughout and use the same font sizes for titles, headings and text
Likewise, if you are using animations in your text or when changing slides, use the same animations throughout so that it is consistent
Keep graphics relevant:
Effective graphs or charts are those which show only the information which is relevant to the points you are making. Too much other information will only clutter your graphics and your audience will not be able to clearly see the points you are making. You may need to redraw or adapt any graphs and charts you find for your presentation
Additionally, any pictures, cartoons or diagrams used should be immediately relevant. They should add to your presentation rather than confuse your audience because their relevance is not immediately clear
Ensure that any graphs or pictures you use are large enough for your audience to see
Good visual aids illustrate the points you are making, not just restate them.
Design tips for effective PowerPoint presentations
- Maximum five lines of text per slide
- No more than 20-25 words per slide
- Mix upper and lower case letters
- Slides should not contain complete sentences
- Use short bullet points that emphasize or reinforce what you are discussing
- 10 Second Rule – If it takes longer than 10 seconds to read the slide there is too much content
- Use easier to read sans serif fonts such as: Tahoma, Arial, and Verdana
- Avoid serif fonts such as: Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond
- Use 44 font size for headings
- Use 38 font size for bulleted points
- Minimum of at least 28 size font
- Remember person in back of audience must be able to read text
- Avoid using black and white for the colour of all slides
- Avoid background colours like red, yellow, and white
- Use dark background colours like blues and greens
- Always use bright colours for lettering such as white, yellow, and bright orange
- When designing charts make sure to use a contrast of colours
- Recommended that you only use between 3 - 6 colours per slide
- Use colour to help separate concepts
- Highlight important information
- Presentations may look different when using an LCD projector. You may want to test slides ahead of time
- Picture should match what you are discussing
- Use clip arts for appropriate age level participants
- Try and keep charts free from clutter and make it simple
- Avoid using too much audio, can be distracting
- Remember the presentation is about the content, not about pictures, movies, and audio files
Using Visual Aids
While PowerPoint slides and other visual aids can be very powerful in a presentation, they can also be very distracting if they are not used correctly.
Be careful not to block anyone’s view while you are talking. Position yourself carefully so that everyone has a clear line of sight
Refer to all the points and illustrations that you put up to avoid confusion for your audience. There should be a clear link between what your audience hears and what they see
When talking about anything on the screen, look at the audience not the screen. Otherwise with your back to your audience, they will find it harder to hear and you lose eye contact with them. You may be able to have the computer screen in front of you so that you can see what they see without turning around
Practise your presentation using your visual aids. That way you will be able to use them smoothly without having to stop and think about what you are doing. Your audience will then stay focused on you rather than being distracted by your aids and miss the main points of your presentation.
An effective speaker is one who can limit distractions and engage with the audience. This is not always easy but here are some tricks you can use to make your presentations more effective.
Presenting is a skill you can learn and get better at. This content is about secrets good presenters know. A few simple tricks can change everything.
"Let’s say it again.
The key to all of these things is to practise."
A good presenter
- Knows that mistakes happen and...keeps going.
- Sometimes forgets where they were or what they were saying, takes a deep breath and...keeps going.
- Feels a bit anxious and excited before speaking, drinks some water and...keeps going.
You probably won’t feel confident on the day but you should try to look confident. It helps to relax your audience and adds authority to what you are saying.
It is important to remember to:
• Smile. Before your start speaking, smile at your audience. Don’t be in a rush to start.
• Make eye contact. Look at your audience often. Connect with them even if you are reading your presentation.
• Stand up straight. Stand tall with your shoulders back. This gives the impression of confidence and authority. Hunched shoulders and bowed head can look apologetic and unconvincing.
• Speak up. Speak purposefully and sound as if you believe what you are saying. A soft voice means not only that the audience can’t hear you but gives the impression that you are not sure of what you are saying.
- Good presenting is not about perfection, but preparing well in advance to minimize the impact of mistakes on the day.
- The one part of preparation that has the greatest impact is practising – out loud, standing up, in front of someone (even if it is the mirror or the dog). Film yourself.
- Practise not once but several times.
Talk naturally using simple language and short sentences. Try to avoid reading. Modulate the tone of your voice and vary the pace of speech. Talk slightly more slowly than normal. Speaking to an audience needs a slower pace than informal conversation so that they can take in what you are saying.
Use your voice to emphasise the main points you want to make. Slow down and increase the volume a little when you are making a point and then speed up and go a little quieter when you are explaining or giving examples. Also, pause between points. This is a verbal version of missing a line between paragraphs and it signals to your audience that you are moving to a new topic.
Nothing is more distracting than someone who repeats a gesture over and over. People often do this when they are nervous and they are not always aware that they do it. Gestures may include wringing hands, touching your face, swaying, tapping a pen, saying um or ah or keeping your hands in your pockets.
Get someone to watch you practise and give you feedback on anything that you do that may be distracting. Once you have identified a mannerism don’t focus on trying to get rid of it. This sometimes makes it worse as you tend to do what you are focusing on, even when you are trying not to. Rather, focus on a behaviour you want to promote and practise that. For example, if you keep touching your face, don’t try not to touch your face but focus on keeping your hand down by your side.
- Nothing stops the flow of a good presentation like having to stop and fiddle with a computer or DVD player. Be early - check everything is ready.
- Practise with your PowerPoint slides so that you can change them smoothly as you talk. People will then be less likely to lose the train of what you are saying.
- Likewise, make sure that any video clips or other visual aids are in place and ready to go so that you don’t have to stop to find what you want to show your audience.
Try to repeat the question back to the audience member.
• This gives you time to think of an answer
• Ensures the audience has heard it correctly
• Gives the questioner a chance to correct misunderstandings
After you have given your presentation ask yourself these questions:
Wienot Films. (2011) How to Give an Awesome (PowerPoint) Presentation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i68a6M5FFBc
TED Conferences. (2015) Before public speaking... playlist. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/playlists/226/before_public_speaking
TED Conferences. (2010) TEDxEast - Nancy Duarte uncovers common structure of greatest communicators. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nYFpuc2Umk
Speak First. Presentation skills - How to improve your presentations. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt8YFCveNpY
This work includes material from the following sources:
Presentation Structure. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTING_PresentationStructure.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Dealing with nerves. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTING_DealingwithNerves.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Using notes. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTING_UsingNotes.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Doing presentations. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/ppoint_files/PRESENTING_DoingPresentations.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
(1) Planning a presentation. page 5. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Adapted from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/ppoint_files/PRESENTING_PlanningPresention.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Presenation checklist. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTING_PresentationChecklist.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Tips for visual aids. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. Retrieved from http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTINGTipsforVisualAids.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Speaking effectively. Queensland Univeristy of Technology Library. http://studywell.library.qut.edu.au/pdf_files/PRESENTING__SpeakingEffectively.pdf Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Hero image: Fireworks 4. Thomas Hawk. Image retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fireworks_4.jpg Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.