Ways to prepare for a presentation

Fully understanding the key features of a presentation can help you to prepare and deliver successful presentations of your own. Read the checklist below and think about each of the steps.

Preparation

A. Understand what you need to do

  • Define the topic and purpose of the presentation: Has the lecturer provided you with a topic or do you have to choose your own? Are you expected to persuade, analyse, evaluate, explain, etc?

  • Check the requirements: Make sure you know the time limit, whether the presentation is assessed, and what the grading criteria are. What kind of research are you expected to do?

  • Identify your audience: Think about what they may already know about the topic and how you can make it interesting for them. For example, are they specialists or might they benefit from explanations of some aspects of your presentation?

B. Put your presentation together

  • Conduct research: This will provide you with detailed information on the topic and relevant evidence or data to support your points and argument.

  • Organise your ideas: Using your research, decide on your focus, main points, and argument. Make sure your thinking has a clear and logical structure. Do you have an introduction, a main body (with several points) and a clear conclusion?

  • Plan what you are going to say: Write notes of your main points to guide your speaking, and then develop your points as you are speaking. Don’t write down exactly what you are going to say and read it out – it will sound unnatural and will be difficult for your audience to understand.

  • Create visual aids (eg Powerpoint, Prezi): Decide what visuals are appropriate for your main points. Select material carefully so you don’t have too much. Make sure the font size and colour are legible.

C. Practise your presentation

  • Practise several times. You can practise alone first and then with other students. Ask for their feedback on different aspects of your presentation. Were the ideas clear? Was your language understandable and accurate?

  • Check your timing: Can you cover all of your material within the time limit? If the presentation is too long or too short, where can you make adjustments?

Delivery

  • Engage with the audience: Maintain eye contact. Look to see if they are listening and if they can follow what you are saying. Add additional explanations if you feel they don’t understand something.

  • Speak clearly: Pay attention to the pronunciation of key words and don’t speak too quickly. Make sure people in the back can hear you.

  • Use your visual aids: Refer to the screen to point out important information, but don’t read out everything.

  • Keep to time: Watch the clock and speed up if you start to run out of time.

Questions

  • Leave time for questions: Listen carefully to each question, and if you don’t understand ask for clarification. One way to do this is to say “Sorry, can you repeat the question?”, but if you think you understand, then paraphrase (eg “So, are you asking me to explain the reasons for this change in policy, or its consequences?”)

  • Demonstrate your knowledge: Refer to your research if relevant to a question. At the same time, it’s best to admit it if you don’t know the answer.


Are you surprised by how many steps are involved in the preparation stages? Post your answer to one of the questions below in the comment area.

  • What preparation advice would you give to a student who is nervous about giving a presentation?

  • Think about the best presentation you have seen. Describe what made it so good.

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This article is from the free online course:

Study UK: Prepare to Study and Live in the UK

British Council